Feeling the need for a little more culture in my life, I drove down Wilshire Blvd. yesterday to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd) to view the exhibition of Thomas Eakins' sporting images. My younger brother Stan was a wrestler in high school and had the Thomas Eakins drawing of a wrestler plastered on his briefcase. And I had just received an email from a friend at LACMA telling me that the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion would be opening there in early October. Curiosity got the better of me, so after viewing the exhibition I walked north of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum toward the top of the Pritzger Parking Garage where the new pavilion is located. Slipping past a guard (I'm good at that), I entered the building... and had a mind-blowing epiphany.
I have been increasingly fascinated of late by the contemporary architectural scene, since my ex, Annabelle, and her partner Marci are working on a film remake of the legendary Ayn Rand book and movie, The Fountainhead, and I have been preoccupied on how to take the dynamic story of architect Howard Ruark and update it. So here I found myself at this truly astonishing Renzo Piano building... and could hardly catch my breath. The exterior is made from the pale travertine marble which is, I am told, from the same quarry as the marble used in the Broad building. There are large windows within the saw-tooth roof which flood the gallery with northern light, and lots of that vibrant "Renzo Red" motif on the exterior. My friend tells me that the Resnick Pavilion will become a stunning 'illumination' at night, with the glass-clad walls and ceiling allowing for a glow from within that can easily be seen while driving by (on 6th Street, to be sure).
The new structure is a free-standing single-story building with a sprawling open floor plan, concrete floor, and that saw-tooth roof with vertical glazing, the largest (45,000 sq. ft.) single-purpose naturally lit open-plan museum in the world. Lynda and Stewart Resnick donated $45 million toward the building, and promised works of art valued at $10 million to occupy some of the space. It is almost completed, and will truly be one of the wonders of our modern world.
I have casually known the Resnicks for some years. I recently read Lynda's book, Rubies in the Orchard, which recounted her adventures branding Fiji Water, POM, Teleflora and other products. After my sixty years in p.r. and marketing, I thought I knew it all... but her book illustrated to me how little I really knew about the way to sell a product in today's tumultuous world. And I recently had a conversation with Stewart at Selim Zilkha's birthday party which floored me with his environmentally-conscious activities toward greening the planet. Yes, they are an astonishing couple.
But as I wandered through their pavilion, all I could think was that there is charitable giving... and then there is CHARITABLE GIVING! What possesses a successful couple like them to give a significant part of their net worth to an art museum? Thank god for the donation gene in their being. (Eli Broad also possesses it). Along these lines, I watched Bill and Melinda Gates on the Charlie Rose Show talking about their new activity called "The Pledge," where they have been traveling the country meeting with multimillionaires and billionaires, urging them to make a moral commitment to give at least half of their net worth to a charitable enterprise either now or in the future. They make the point that many of these young, vastly successful people don't have a clue about how to donate to philanthropic causes on an organized basis.
At a dinner party the other evening, I was asked how I would handle the matter if I happened to have a few billion dollars to spare, and I made the point that I didn't need that kind of money to make my contribution to 'mankind.' Rather, I said that my efforts would be a further extension of what I am now doing on a small way: follow the lead of Michelle Obama and her White House garden and take it down that path. I believe that by going into inner city schools -- think Harlem, Detroit, Des Moines and Chicago -- and teaching young children, and I mean those just entering the outside world -- to cook with healthy ingredients -- would do so much toward their eventual growth and success in that frightening outer world. A hands-on program which is sustained would illuminate to them a smarter, healthier way to eat regardless of their circumstances.
I remember when I was growing up rather poor in a Jewish home in Brooklyn, I never ate an artichoke or an avocado, a mango or a chile, until I was drafted during the Korean War and went to an Army base in New Mexico where I was exposed to these new foods. That experience opened my eyes to the potentials of other cuisines... and began a career which flourishes today.
I can only imagine the deep satisfaction which the Resnicks will feel as they walk through the museum on its opening night, look at the stunning art collection which they have contributed to help fill the space, and going to bed that night satisfied that they have made a small but significant contribution to making this world a better place for us all.
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