Billionaire art collectors live with Koons, Warhol and Basquiat


LOS ANGELES – Some art collectors are taking the chocolate box approach: one on the couch, two in the den.

Multiply that multiple times and you get the residence of billionaire art collectors Marc and Jane Nathanson. You have the impression to see everything that the chocolate factory makes, at the same time.

Their home here is home to a rich and deep collection of important works that stop the eye in every room, on every wall, even in interstitial spaces.

Having seven Andy Warhol, like the Nathansons do, is indeed rare. What is even rarer is that these are the best pieces of the artist’s work, and all on display, with “Double Elvis” (1964), “Two Marilyns” (1962) and ” Large Campbell’s Soup Can ”(1965) among them.

Several pieces by Jeff Koons, Ellsworth Kelly and Roy Lichtenstein are also among the dozens of works on display, which are only a fraction of the approximately 400 they own.

Art Basel was a frequent shopping stop for the Nathansons to acquire such works.

The collection centers around Pop Art masterpieces, but also features a significant number of contemporary artists – Kara Walker, Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger among them – and a Matisse and one from Kooning for good measure.

The funds for the purchase of these works come in large part from Mr. Nathanson’s long career in the cable industry. He founded Falcon Cable and then sold it for over $ 3.6 billion in 1999. Since then Mr. Nathanson, 73, has invested in other companies and has also been politically appointed. He was chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Ms Nathanson, 72, is a practicing psychologist from Queens who attended Kew-Forest School with at least one famous classmate, Donald J. Trump.

The Nathansons opened up about their voracious appetite for art in an interview at their home last month. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

I know you will be there Basel Art. What’s the call?

JANE NATHANSON I think the best galleries are exhibited at Art Basel. I wish we had such a good fair here in Los Angeles. I think Art Basel Miami Beach got pretty good too. It really is an opportunity to see galleries from around the world and artists from around the world that you – even living in LA or New York – don’t get to see.

Do you prefer fairs to dealers and auctions?

MARC NATHANSON We did it all. We bought quite a bit at auction.

Jn In terms of resellers, we bought the most from Larry Gagosian. He’s our guy.

How about the huge Jeff Koons I can see in the yard, “Sacred Heart”?

Jn This is our latest acquisition which we are very excited about. It actually came from Koons: it was his play.

We had bought him another part which, after six years, had still not been made. And I said, “Jeff, we’re getting too old to wait four or five years. I need one that we can have now and enjoy. We watched a lot of plays and fell in love with them.

Your breakfast room has an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat with a whole story.

Jn It was an early Basquiat, and I bought it for Marc’s 35th birthday for $ 5,000.

It’s a little unusual for Basquiat only because he’s a Venus, which is female, and he generally did mostly male figures. I think there was something so big about him and so free about him and how he started out.

MN Jane bought it at the first show he had here – Larry showed it to him.

Jn I couldn’t believe I was spending $ 5,000 on a painting. I had to have it, you know?

Then again, a Basquiat sold for $ 110.5 million at auction last year, so it was well spent.

MN It was a lot of money back then.

What was it like here when you started collecting in Los Angeles in the 1970s, in terms of the artistic community?

MN You went to people’s houses, they had big houses and some kind of fancy Ferrari in the driveway. But not a work of art inside. It was amazing for us.

Jn Life here was really about the outdoors. If they had money here at the time, everyone wanted a tennis court. In New York, you needed to enrich your surroundings indoors.

And yet, you persevered with a shovel.

Jn We were lucky enough to buy Warhol and Lichtenstein and these people while they were alive. Even Basquiat, who died so young, was alive when we bought it.

We think you should buy live artists. That’s why we built the special gallery downstairs, for more contemporary works. We try to train our eyes to appreciate it.

You certainly have enough art to open a private museum. Will it happen?

Jn Never. I am against people who open their own museum. I really think it’s important to share the work. Really, you only borrow these works for a while. But our intention is that eventually most of it will go to different museums. And each child can choose a piece.

Have your children put post-its on whatever they want?

MN They did, and they tried to change so many times because they were in their twenties when they did that.

Jn We don’t let them change – there ain’t no change [laughs].

It seems like a relatively optimistic type of collection overall. Is this just the nature of the Pop Art focus?

MN This is an interesting question. We hadn’t thought of it. But of course, the collection always tells you something about the collector. I don’t think we want to live very sadly.

Jn It’s true that we don’t have a lot of hard art. I guess there is art that I would like to look at that is a bit more difficult, and art that I like to live with. We had sexier pieces, but it was difficult when we had young children. Now we have grandchildren.

Certainly the Koons corresponds to the most optimistic feeling.

Jn I think the heart kind of spoke to us right now because we just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. There was something about the “Sacred Heart” and about love, at a time when there seemed to be so much hatred. Plus, we just liked the color and how it looked.

How do you see the acquisition of new works?

Jn It’s never to fit a wall. We fall in love with it or follow an artist. I’ve been trying to get an Urs Fischer for two years. I am very clear on what I want.

Although with an Urs Fischer, for some of his parts you may have to dig a huge hole in your beautiful home – his installations once involved excavating soil, right?

Jn Yeah, I would do that.

MN We would be. Yes of course.


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