How Los Angeles' Art Lovers Live
by kathy a. mcdonald
For LA’s art-crazed collectors, home is where the art is.
The Frank Gehry–designed Janss home may look imposing, but it was built with plenty of skylights to illuminate the family’s show stopping art collection.
An art collection is made to be shared. After all, it’s a reflection of the person who put it together. But finding the perfect setting to show off one’s stash can be a monumental challenge. Major LA collectors, such as Eli Broad and Michael Ovitz, built homes around their extraordinary collections, though not without hiccups. Broad’s chosen architect, Frank Gehry, exited the project before construction and Ovitz was said to have gone through two dozen plans before architect Michael Maltzan got the green light. (Today, the Ovitz collection sits within metal-sheathed, cube-like fortresses in Beverly Hills; the holdings are more easily glimpsed on the walls of the CAA founder’s two eateries, Hamasaku and Ink.)
Ultimately, what every collector seeks is a space where his or her art can shine without distraction. “There are certain houses that lend themselves to the presentation of art,” says The Agency’s Billy Rose. “Clients have an expectation of what that looks like.”
Increasingly, luxury home builders are considering the needs of art collectors as potential buyers. Ultra-high-end spec projects often incorporate elements integral to purpose-built gallery spaces, such as versatile inset spot lighting, indirect light sources, automated smart-home system controls (for temperature and security), and vast wall expanses.
A lounge area in this 10,000-squarefoot, $12.5 million Faring Road contemporary in Holmby Hills contains custom-built shelving—perfect for displaying both large paintings and small-scale ceramics. The home’s glass-enclosed façade allows light to flood the interior and showcase artwork, especially in the soaring central gallery.
Rose is representing a 10,000-square-foot Holmby Hills compound (asking price: $12.5 million), complete with 14-foot-high ceilings and a soaring, 34-foot-high central gallery, where art can be presented in a grand fashion. However, the ideal display is very personal and not the same for every collector (much the same as the individual art choices). A well-proportioned space, without a lot of architectural flourishes, appeals to gallery owner Marc Selwyn of Beverly Hills’s Marc Selwyn Fine Art. “Huge paintings need a huge house; intimate-scale drawings can look spectacular in a smaller setting,” advises Selwyn. “Having natural light is a huge plus,” he adds.
Designed by preeminent museum architect Frederick Fisher (designer of the Sunnylands Center & Gardens and arts patron Wallis Annenberg’s Malibu Colony house), Selwyn’s gallery sits under a bow-truss ceiling illuminated by a mammoth skylight.
Another Frederick Fisher and Partners– designed structure—a home built in 2006 for an artist and a lawyer—is now on the market in Santa Ynez, in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country. Glass-panel doors on one side of the vineyard surrounded home disappear to better take in the landscape of oak-studded hills, vines, and mountain views—not to mention plenty of art-friendly natural light. The home’s former studio, accessed through a sheltered 2,300-square-foot interior courtyard, has high white walls with clerestory windows and faces north. The house comes furnished (down to the linens), but does not include the art, says Laura Drammer of Sotheby’s International Realty’s Los Olivos office, who has the $6.95 million listing.
Few homes can compare to the estate of Edwin and Ann Janss (the Janss family were developers of Westwood, Thousand Oaks, and Sun Valley, Idaho) in West Los Angeles. One of architect Frank Gehry’s earliest design commissions (circa 1974), it was built as backdrop for the couple’s cutting-edge contemporary art collection.
“It is a very specific house, built to entertain and showcase art,” says Beth Green, estates director at Beverly Hills’ Hilton & Hyland. At the gallery-like residence, even the garage was converted to the cause and lined with storage racks. The garden was configured for sculptures, and an additional lot and house were acquired (both are included in the $2.995 million listing price). The great room has 12-foot-high ceilings and no windows; there are skylights, which were draped until just before the home went on the market.
À la mod! This glass, steel, and stone Bird Street contemporary—on the market for $38 million—was specially designed by builder Sean Sassounian to highlight his own covetable art collection as well as curated pieces from the Kohn Gallery.
Flash-forward to the future and spec builder/ owner Sean Sassounian’s $38 million Bird Street steel, glass, and stone ultra contemporary (represented by The Agency). An avid art collector, Sassounian spent three years in construction on the high-design property. Offered completely furnished with pieces from Classicon, Walter Knoll, and other designer furniture lines, the ridge-top aerie is staged with art from his collection and curated works via the cutting-edge Kohn Gallery. (Sassounian is parting with the house and furniture, but not the art.)
“The house came to life when the art arrived,” Sassounian insists. At the entrance, an atmospheric Joe Goode (from the “Ocean Blue” series) sets a contemplative mood, while works from Bruce Conner, Wallace Berman, and Andy Warhol add Pop imagery. Textured wood panels, terrazzo floors, and a custom lighting system soften the interiors. In the exhibition kitchen, spotlights are inset into the floor to illuminate sculptures. Skylights above the main stairway provide natural light and create a moody shadowing effect on walls. No longer a plain envelope, the house and the art interplay in a seemingly organic way. Art-ready for LA’s “nouveaux artistiques”!
photography by jim bartsch; Unlimited style real estate photography (janss home); jim bartsch (faring road property)
Cover shoot: September 2014 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.