After much fretting over the loss of three art collections to the dispersal effect of the art market last week, Los Angeles is now celebrating the endowment-enhancing power of the self-same art market. When Christie’s sold the Hopper, Palevsky and Shapazian collections, Angelenos were upset that classic Contemporary art was leaving the region. This on the heels of the sale of the Frances Brody collection that many had assumed would be donated to local museums like the Huntington.
Now, the record-breaking sale of the Brody Picasso along with a host of other works has allowed the Huntington to receive a huge boost to its endowment. So which would the Huntington rather have had: the art or the money?
This October, the institution received $15 million in cash intended by Brody to improve the botanical gardens, one of her most passionate concerns as a board member. That amount, Koblik says, was specified in her trust instrument and was not in doubt.
The mystery, rather, was how much money the Huntington would receive for also being named the estate’s sole “residual beneficiary” — the heir who is paid after all others should the estate have extra money left over. That’s when the art figured in. When the art world witnessed Christie’s sell several of Brody’s masterpieces in May, led by Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” for $106.5 million (which set a record as the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction), Koblik was watching with particular interest.
“It was an amazing moment,” he says. “When the Christie’s sale of the artwork proved so successful, we knew that would change the nature of our gift.” In effect, the auction created a surplus of $80 million after the other estate payouts, an amount that hit the Huntington’s bank account last week. Brody estate trustee Robert Shuwarger says the Huntington’s final gift will consist of proceeds from selling the remaining property, including Brody’s A. Quincy Jones house in Holmby Hills. The listing price of the house, which has been on the market since May, has dropped from $24.95 million to $21 million.