Jori Finkel has an excellent story in the Los Angeles Times but the import is inverted by a little bit of cultural piety. Finkel sets up the story as terrible drain of world-class art from Los Angeles because greedy heirs of the Brody, Crichton, Hopper, Palevsky and Shapazian collections want money over making a civic contribution:
Deborah McLeod, who has worked with several of these collectors as director of Gagosian Beverly Hills, calls the exodus of artwork “a failure of our culture.”
“Unlike the East Coast, where a number of big families have the tradition of giving,” she says, “there just isn’t an ingrained philanthropic culture of supporting museums here in Los Angeles. You’ve heard people say we’re a one-philanthropist town, with Eli Broad, and that’s not so far off.”
L.A. gallery owner Louis Stern adds that museums can hardly compete with auctions now that art, especially contemporary art, routinely achieves such high prices. “Who’s going to donate an artwork when you are promised millions at market?
“The idea of selling at auction is incredibly seductive,” he adds. “The auction houses are extremely well organized, they make it their business to know all the trusts and estates lawyers. They’ve taken on this sort of quasi-official role in the art world — almost like a bank.”
Further down, an alternative theory of the crime emerges where the collectors themselves — and their heirs –rebel against the idea of their prized works ending up unseen in storage:
According to one collector’s heir, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern for his family’s legacy, the dread of museum storage can even be incentive to sell at auction. “Many people don’t give to museums for fear that the work will end up in storage. So sending it out into the world, where it is purchased by people who want it, more or less ensures that it will be lived with.”
An Exodus of Art Work from LA (Los Angeles Times)