LACMA may need a new word for windfall. It doesn’t seem to do justice to the astounding gift the museum received this week from A. Jerrold Perenchio. The Los Angeles billionaire bequeathed the institution nearly 50 pieces from his personal art collection including paper and sculpture works from Impressionist and modern art legends like Monet, Manet, Picasso, Pissarro, Degas, and Magritte. The collection is valued at $500 million and museum CEO Michael Govan admitted to the Los Angeles Times, “LACMA could never afford to buy works of art like this. It’s an unthinkable thing at this point.”
There were a few caveats from Perenchio, a shrewd businessman who amassed much of his wealth by buying and selling the Spanish-language channel Univision while producing legendary films and TV shows like Blade Runner and All in the Family. LACMA will receive his collection after his death—he’s a hale 83—and only after the museum completes work on a $600 million building designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. But we won’t have to wait a decade for Zumthor’s addition to open; select works from Perenchio’s gift will be on view at the museum in the spring, just in time for LACMA’s 50th anniversary. Here’s what we most want to see:
Pablo Picasso, Tête (Head of Fernande), 1909
Perenchio loves Picasso. His gift includes seven pieces from the Spanish master of mediums. This drawing of Picasso’s lover is an especially striking creation that is both a joy to behold and a curiosity to ponder, as it displays Picasso’s earliest forays into Cubism. Reducing facial features to simple lines, curves, and shading, Fernande remains evocative and intriguing. Is that woman smirking or simply posing?
Rene Magritte, Les Liaisons dangereuses, 1935
This piece by the famous Belgian surrealist is only slightly surreal. It actually seems more prescient, with a woman holding up a reflection of another woman, or possibly a different variation of herself. She’s showcasing her flawless body but with down-turned shame, not proud ownership. Our selfie-loving culture can relate.
Claude Monet, Asters, 1880
LACMA will receive at least three Monets, including an Impressionist take on his garden and one of his earliest paintings of water lilies. But it’s Asters that has us begging for a close-up: The still-life of a vase and flowers is so quietly beautiful—the colors are limited to browns, blues, yellows, whites, and subtle greens—it leaves the viewer both thrilled and serene. It seems implausible that a bouquet so breathtaking and grand could actually stand up straight. It’s not clear if it’s an exaggeration of reality, but who needs authenticity when there’s this much beauty?