LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a town famously built on self-promotion, Hollywood mogul Jerry Perenchio preferred to stay out of the spotlight, which he says “fades your suit.”
On Thursday, the 83-year-old stepped into the glare of the burgeoning Los Angeles art scene to donate works by Monet, Degas, Picasso and other artists valued at $500 million, in the largest gift ever made to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The former chairman and chief executive of the Spanish-language Univision TV network will donate at least 47 masterworks of impressionism and modernism to the museum known as LACMA. These include paintings, works on paper and sculpture, mostly created between 1870 to the 1930s.
“For many years, I have given charitable donations anonymously and really stayed in the woodwork,” the notoriously press-averse Perenchio told Reuters after announcing his gift.
“I thought it was very important to get the biggest bang for our buck, and that is why I decided to step out for a brief moment and give the art and ask for the donations,” he added.
Perenchio wants to use the gift to goad other donors and collectors to back a new $600 million building at LACMA by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, set to be completed by 2023. Construction has yet to begin.
Los Angeles County’s supervisors unanimously voted on Wednesday to allocate $125 million for the project that will replace four of the museum’s seven buildings along Wilshire Boulevard.
The museum, which has one of the largest collections in the United States, with 110,000 objects, would receive the works only after Perenchio’s death and is contingent on the completion of the Zumthor building.
Among Perenchio’s works are three significant paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet, including a 1905 painting of water lilies.
The donation of Edouard Manet’s portrait of “M. Gauthier-Lathuille fils” from 1879 will be the first painting by the French Impressionist to enter LACMA’s collection.
Other works include an early cubist drawing from Pablo Picasso as well as paintings from French cubist Fernand Leger and Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte.
“We live in a modern city and modernism has shaped our everyday life, and to tell the story of late nineteenth century art and the birth of modernism is an incredible thing for LACMA,” said Michael Govan, the museum’s director.
Born in Fresno, Perenchio began his career in Hollywood as an agent before moving on to film and television production. He is known for organizing the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs and produced sci-fi thriller “Blade Runner” and Oscar best picture “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.7 billion.
“I have lived in Los Angeles for 70 years and I owe a lot of the success in my career to this city and I wanted to give something back,” Perenchio said.
(This story has been refiled to remove extra reference to Perenchio’s age in third paragraph)
Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Ken Wills