The big givers you prob­a­bly don’t know

Meet the Res­nicks, who are now en­ter­ing the royal ranks of L.A.’s wealthy arts pa­trons.

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Jori Finkel

Would Lynda Res­nick have been able to save Marie An­toinette from the guil­lo­tine? It’s dif­fi­cult not to won­der as much when the mar­ket­ing dy­namo, known as the POM Queen for the pome­gran­ate-juice em­pire she runs with hus­band Ste­wart, starts dis­cussing the French queen’s pub­lic re­la­tions prob­lems.

Wear­ing a flesh-col­ored Dior dress with Louboutin shoes, Res­nick was stand­ing at the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art in front of a paint­ing she owns: a lu­mi­nes­cent por­trait of a young Marie An­toinette by Elis­a­beth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun. A later ver­sion hangs at Ver­sailles.

“A great deal of her bad press was man­u­fac­tured by her en­e­mies,” Res­nick says. “She needed a bet­ter pub­li­cist. And she cer­tainly needed a stronger hus­band.”

Res­nick knows some­thing about both. Over the last 30 years, she and Ste­wart have built their for­tune with a string of com­pa­nies, from Tele­flora and the Franklin Mint to POM Won­der­ful and Fiji Wa­ter, for which she steered the mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. The Los An­ge­les Busi­ness Jour­nal es­ti­mated their net worth this year at $1.79 bil­lion.

Now, with the open­ing of a new Renzo Pi­ano-de-

Res­nick,

signed build­ing on the LACMA cam­pus that bears their names af­ter a $45-mil­lion gift, the Res­nicks are en­ter­ing the ranks of the city’s lead­ing arts pa­trons. The Lynda and Ste­wart Res­nick Ex­hi­bi­tion Pavil­ion, a highly flex­i­ble build­ing de­signed for tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions, opens to the pub­lic on Oct. 2.

The pavil­ion’s open­ing marks the first time a sub­stan­tial part of their col­lec­tion will go on pub­lic dis­play.

And the gift makes them L.A.’s biggest arts donors whom you’ve prob­a­bly never heard of. With­out be­ing house­hold names like the Broads or the An­nen­bergs, they have joined a small group of phi­lan­thropists with the means and com­mit­ment to trans­form a cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion.

“Fifty years from now, we will see the Res­nicks as part of the great cul­tural his­tory of Los An­ge­les that in­cludes Henry Hunt­ing­ton, Nor­ton Simon and Ed­ward Carter,” says Scott Schaefer, the paint­ings cu­ra­tor at the Getty who helped shape their col­lec­tion early on, dat­ing back to his own days at LACMA.

L.A. County Mu­seum of Art di­rec­tor Michael Go­van says their $45-mil­lion do­na­tion to LACMA, ac­com­pa­nied by a pledge to do­nate art­work worth $10 mil­lion, rep­re­sents “the sec­ond-largest sin­gle gift in the mu­seum’s his­tory.” The largest, $50 mil­lion plus $10 mil­lion in art, came from Eli and Edythe Broad.

What makes the Res­nicks’ gift so “ex­tra­or­di­nary,” Go­van adds, is that they have made it with “no strings at­tached.”

“At the be­gin­ning, when the pavil­ion was in draw­ing form, they asked a lot of ques­tions — Ste­wart is a very tough thinker fi­nan­cially,” says Go­van. “then ba­si­cally they came to visit two or three times dur­ing con­struc­tion. It was an amaz­ing vote of con­fi­dence.”

This rep­re­sents a dra­matic con­trast, board mem­bers say, to Eli Broad’s in­volve­ment through­out con­struc­tion of the Broad Con­tem­po­rary Art Mu­seum at LACMA, also by Renzo Pi­ano.

Res­nick, a LACMA trustee since 1992, ac­knowl­edges the dif­fer­ence. “We see no need to mi­cro­man­age; we have seen the neg­a­tive ef­fects of it,” she says.

She de­clined to dis­cuss Broad in any more de­tail but was happy to talk about other pa­trons who in­spire her, in­clud­ing Ron­ald Lauder and David Gef­fen. “David has been very gen­er­ous in his gifts and gives with no strings at­tached — I love that about him,” she says.

Gef­fen also comes up in an ex­am­ple she of­fers of just how un­fash­ion­able her French 18th cen­tury tastes can seem in L.A., where “ev­ery­one buys con­tem­po­rary art. Peo­ple just don’t un­der­stand why we col­lect Old Masters.”

Sun­set house party

For years the cou­ple’s friends, such as Gef­fen, Bar­bra Streisand, Jared Di­a­mond and Wal­ter Isaacson, could see the Res­nicks’ art col­lec­tion at their 25,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts home on Sun­set Boule­vard, which in its dé­cor and gen­eral grandeur has been com­pared to Ver­sailles. But this month the cou­ple threw a party at the Sun­set house af­ter the Old Masters pic­tures were re­moved for their LACMA in­stal­la­tion.

“David called me the next day, at 6:30 a.m. be­cause that’s how he strikes,” she says. “He called to say that Nora Ephron likes the house bet­ter with­out those pic­tures. And she’s not the only one.”

Her own in­ter­est in Old Masters, Res­nick says, comes from her child­hood ex­pe­ri­ence with her home­town mu­seum: the Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art. “That’s where I learned to love paint­ing,” she says. “My fa­ther car­ried me around in his arms there.”

She even con­sid­ered art school — “I had a nice hand, that’s all,” Res­nick says now, not­ing that she was ac­cepted at Chouinard in Los An­ge­les. But she says her fa­ther wouldn’t pay for it. So she took cour­ses at Santa Mon­ica City Col­lege (“it was like high school with ash­trays”) be­fore start­ing her first ad­ver­tis­ing agency at age 19.

She mar­ried Ste­wart in 1972, af­ter try­ing to land his firm as one of her ad­ver­tis­ing clients. She never got the ac­count “but sure got the busi­ness,” as she likes to say.

They built their for­tune to­gether through agri­cul­tural hold­ings (pis­ta­chios, pomegranates and more) and sev­eral con­sumer-driven com­pa­nies, with Ste­wart pro­vid­ing the fi­nan­cial stew­ard­ship and Lynda the mem­o­rable mar­ket­ing touches.

She paid a record price of $211,000 for Jac­que­line Kennedy Onas­sis’ fake pearls at Sotheby’s to cre­ate a Franklin Mint doll that repli­cated them beau­ti­fully. She de­vised the heart-based POM logo for their pome­gran­ate juice and in­vested mil­lions in sci­en­tific re­search doc­u­ment­ing the fruit’s an­tiox­i­dant-fu­eled health ben­e­fits. She re­branded Fiji Wa­ter with the greener slo­gan “un­touched by man.”

Fiji Wa­ter has since come un­der in­tense scru­tiny, along with other bot­tled wa­ter man­u­fac­tur­ers, for its en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. And POM Won­der­ful, which was boy­cotted by Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals be­fore it stopped an­i­mal test­ing, this year re­ceived a warn­ing let­ter from the FDA about mak­ing health claims be­fit­ting an un­ap­proved new drug, like its prom­ise to “slow prostate tu­mor growth.”

But sales re­main strong, and the Res­nicks’ sup­port­ers un­daunted. Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton praises Lynda Res­nick’s skills as “very cut­ting-edge: She un­der­stands that mar­ket­ing is re­ally about en­gage­ment, not ma­nip­u­la­tion.” The dozens of book jacket blurbs for her mem­oirs, “Ru­bies in the Or­chard,” that hint at the breadth of her so­cial net­work are even more ef­fu­sive.

If the Res­nicks are known for tak­ing cal­cu­lated risks in buy­ing com­pa­nies, their art ac­qui­si­tions are ar­guably even more ad­ven­tur­ous. Along with buy­ing Old Masters gems in a town that skews con­tem­po­rary, they are also known for buy­ing lesser-known, or even uniden­ti­fied, artists they just hap­pen to love.

Sense of ad­ven­ture

While their long­time cu­ra­tor Bernard Jaz­zar pro­vides re­search and ex­per­tise, he read­ily ad­mits that their Old Masters ac­qui­si­tions al­ways start with them. “If they don’t love some­thing, there’s no con­vinc­ing them.”

He says the col­lec­tion has about 3,500 works, in­clud­ing ob­jets d’art such as a Zsol­nay ce­ramic bowl in the shape of a pome­gran­ate, the paint­ings and sculp­tures now at LACMA, and more con­tem­po­rary ma­te­rial at the of­fices.

Typ­i­cally Lynda tends to pur­sue the paint­ings, and Ste­wart the sculp­ture, but they run pur­chases past each other first. And they share a taste for the sen­sual, which trans­lates vis­ually into an abun­dance of flesh, from over-ripe cleav­age to out­right nu­dity.

The run­ning joke is that it’s an R-rated col­lec­tion.

“We had trou­ble find­ing im­ages that we could use on the street banners,” says Go­van.

‘Closet Catholic’

Still, there are ex­cep­tions to the worldly deca­dence. One is a Madonna by In­gres, show­ing a serene Mary stand­ing at an al­tar. One of the Res­nicks’ few re­li­gious paint­ings, it hung in their mas­ter bed­room be­fore be­ing in­stalled at LACMA.

“I’m a closet Catholic,” says Lynda, who is in other re­spects Jewish. “I love the iconog­ra­phy of the saints. There was a point in my life when I was go­ing to con­vert to Catholi­cism, but I didn’t want my grand­mother spin­ning around in her grave like a ro­tis­serie chicken.”

For Ste­wart, the most per­sonal piece is surely a mas­sive mar­ble sculp­ture of Napoleon that pre­sides over their draw­ing room. It is not in the LACMA show. “It was too big to move,” he says. (“It’s hideous; it re­minds me of For­est Lawn,” his wife de­clares.)

While their art col­lec­tion is flashy in these ways, their phil­an­thropic ac­tiv­i­ties over the years have been more dis­creet. “We have tried to keep a low pro­file,” says Ste­wart Res­nick, who granted only a brief in­ter­view for this ar­ti­cle. “Giv­ing should be its own re­ward.”

They made their first ma­jor gift in 1987, when they owned the Franklin Mint in Philadel­phia. They gave $1 mil­lion to the Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art to en­dow the ro­tunda gallery, where Van Gogh’s “Sun­flow­ers” now hangs. (Lynda still sits on the board of the Philadel­phia mu­seum as well as the Aspen In­sti­tute and some med­i­cal boards, while Ste­wart Res­nick is a trustee at the Getty and Cal­tech among oth­ers.)

More re­cently, they gave $15 mil­lion to UCLA for the Ste­wart and Lynda Res­nick Neu­ropsy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal and $20 mil­lion to Cal­tech for a new sus­tain­abil­ity in­sti­tute. They have also tried to cul­ti­vate a phil­an­thropic cul­ture within their com­pany, Roll In­ter­na­tional Corp., through a pro­gram started in 2006. Along with match­ing em­ployee gifts to char­ity, Roll Giv­ing grants ev­ery full-time em­ployee who has been with the com­pany for six months — cur­rently 3,700 out of 4,500 — $1,000 a year to give to the char­ity of their choice.

“It’s much more ef­fec­tive for us to let each em­ployee give $1,000 away than for us to do­nate a lump sum of a few mil­lion dol­lars some­where,” Ste­wart says.

Eye to­ward fu­ture

As for do­nat­ing art­works, the cou­ple has made oc­ca­sional gifts to mu­se­ums , but noth­ing along the lines of their $10-mil­lion pledge of art to LACMA. Word is that they will an­nounce the first ma­jor do­na­tion un­der this pledge at LACMA’s gala on Satur­day: Jean Restout’s 1717 mytho­log­i­cal paint­ing, “Venus Or­der­ing Arms from Vul­can for Ae­neas.”

What about the rest of the 3,500-work col­lec­tion? Lynda Res­nick says the plan is to do­nate those works too, pro­vided “there’s some­thing left in our es­tate and our heirs don’t have to sell the pic­tures.” (The cou­ple has five chil­dren and four grand­chil­dren.)

“We re­ally do think of our­selves as stew­ards of these works,” she says. “We want our col­lec­tion to go to pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions. Ob­vi­ously LACMA is No. 1, but we’ll also think about the Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art and the Getty.”

But that’s enough talk of legacy for Mrs. Res­nick, who does not like to dis­close her age. “I don’t plan on go­ing that quickly,” she says.

Bob Cham­ber­lin

ART LOVERS: Los An­ge­les res­i­dents Ste­wart and Lynda Res­nick visit a gallery in their new build­ing at LACMA as art from their pri­vate col­lec­tion is in­stalled.

ON DIS­PLAY:

Bob Cham­ber­lin

The LACMA pavil­ion named for the Res­nicks in­cludes art­work from their col­lec­tion.

CLAS­SIC:

Bob Cham­ber­lin

The col­lec­tion in­cludes Elis­a­beth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun’s por­trait of Marie An­toinette, left, a Madonna by In­gres and an­gelic sculp­tures.

Bob Cham­ber­lin

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