The table at the home of Victoria Jackson and Bill Guthy.

LOS ANGELES - One of the best museum events I go to each year is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Collectors Committee Weekend. At the culmination of a weekend of art, food, and wine, members choose which artworks, presented by LACMA’s curators, will join the museum’s collection. On the first evening, LACMA trustees open their homes to members of the committee in a “dine around town,” where world-class chefs prepare sumptuous meals, paired with wines presented by renowned west coast vintners. Chefs this year included Tom Colicchio of Craft, Thomas Keller of Bouchon, Michael Cimarusti of Providence and in a surprise west coast appearance, Dino Gatto of Rao’s. I had the great good fortune to attend a dinner hosted by Victoria Jackson and Bill Guthy, where Michael Tusk of San Francisco’s Quince prepared an eight-course meal, and Paul Roberts, the Estate Director of BOND, selected the wine pairings.  

The BOND estates wine labels use intaglio prints of U.S. Bonds from the 1870’s.

We tasted five wines – all of the same grape, from the same vineyard, and made by the same master vintner. The labels were gorgeous – intaglio prints of U.S. Bond notes from the 1870s (they actually own the metal plates). We started the feast with Isle of Skye blue lobster and fava beans; proceeded to monkfish with cauliflower and mint; had a poularde in a fagotelli (think big ravioli) with date and porcini mushrooms; followed by a spicy squab; and then, Kobe beef with morels, ramp and bone marrow. That was followed by the cheese course, and then of course multiple desserts. I learned that magnums are the perfect vessel, because historically wines age better because of their higher level of oxygen. I especially loved their “Belle Époque,” the first Bond wine to receive 100 points.

Clockwise from upper left: Monkfish with cauliflower and mint, poularde in a fagotelli, spicy squab, and Kobe beef with morels, ramp and bone marrow.

After breakfast at LACMA the next morning, we heard ten curators present their choices for acquisitions with funding provided by the monies raised during the weekend. The presentations, in the company of the objects themselves, were lively and intelligent.  There was something for everyone, but the hands down favorite was a Rauschenberg print from 1970 entitled Currents, which was composed of screen-printed extracts from 1970’s issues of metropolitan newspapers. The Cold War, civil rights, and the Vietnam War are some of the hot topics that are covered in this sixty-foot long mural.

Robert Rauschenberg, Currents (detail), 1970, gift of the 2012 Collectors Committee © Robert Rauschenberg Estate/Licensed by VAGA, New York, photo courtesy Peter Freeman Inc., New York, photo by Jerry Mathiason

At the other end of the spectrum was a remarkable Albrecht Durer engraving of St. Jerome in his Study from 1514 measuring just 9 5/8 x 7 3/8 inches (24.4 x 18.8 cm). Collectors admired the quality of the printing, and the fact that it would complete a series of master engravings by the artist.

Albrecht Dürer, Saint Jerome in His Study, 1514, gift of the 2012 Collectors Committee, with additional funds provided by the Prints and Drawings Council and Philippa Calnan

In the decorative arts, there was immediate excitement for a gorgeous Louis Sullivan elevator surround from the Chicago Stock Exchange Building. Another early favorite was an archetypal Shirin Neshat photograph entitled Speechless from the Women of Allah series, depicting the barrel of a gun emerging from a woman’s face which is covered in Persian writing. I also was mesmerized by a Bruce Conner video, Three Screen Ray, a collage of found footage with footage he shot himself, synchronized to a Ray Charles recording.

Louis Sullivan, Elevator Surround from the Chicago Stock Exchange Building, 1892, gift of the 2012 Collectors Committee

 At lunch the curators continued to campaign for their choices, but I was very busy enjoying the well-prepared food at the new restaurant on the LACMA campus, Ray’s. Featuring farm-to-table fare, this café has certainly redefined museum dining, thanks to the talents of executive chef Kris Morningstar. I loved the farro salad, and the seared tuna with fennel, and instead of going back into the galleries after lunch, I had a lot of fun wandering amidst the enfilade of food trucks on Wilshire Boulevard. There was every kind of ethnic food you could dream of, and the decoration of the vehicles is an art form in and of itself.


The food trucks lined up on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles.

But we weren’t done yet. That night, at a gala dinner at the museum, we had a special menu prepared by Chef Joachim Splichal, with another set of glorious wine pairings from the best of California vineyards. I loved the first course of arctic char, smoked crème fraiche, cucumber, bronze fennel, borage and fresh horseradish; followed by a pea agnolotti with pea green and black truffle. By the time the third course of filet mignon materialized, I couldn’t have cared less, but I did dip into the Meyer lemon budino with tangerine puree and bergamot frozen yogurt.  After a lively and highly lucrative charity auction, we got to spend the monies raised from the weekend on all of the art I described above, plus some others. An Old Master painting was left behind, as well as a Southeast Asian chest. It was a very democratic process, where majority ruled, but thanks to the generosity of many in the audience, we were able to stretch the budget and acquire a good many of the works of art beyond the original budget.
Although I spent a great deal of time at LACMA, I was fortunate to have a sneak preview with director Jeffrey Deitch of his fantastic show at MoCA – The Painting Factory: Abstraction After Warhol, an exhibition that explores abstraction today as practiced by a younger generation – more emotional than reductive. It’s too bad that this is a one-venue show, because it is so fresh and relevant and deserves to be seen by an international audience.  

I couldn’t let a trip to downtown pass without having a food experience as well, so I made a quick stop for lunch at the famed Border Grill. I’m a big fan of Susan Feniger and Sue Milliken, otherwise known as the ‘two hot tamales,’ and since Mexican food wasn’t anywhere to be found on the weekend offerings, I treated myself to a visit to the restaurant, which did not disappoint in any way. I had a wonderful Mexican chopped salad with roasted turkey, charred corn, green chickpeas, apple, avocado, and roasted peppers, tossed in a toasted cumin vinaigrette. So I found the flavor profile I was looking for in one relatively healthy bowl of food, and washed it all down with fresh pomegranate lemonade.