Collectors Jane and Marc Nathanson open the doors to their Holmby Hills masterpiece.
“What to see what not to see” is written in blue neon on the side of Marc and Jane Nathanson’s white Spanish house in Holmby Hills. Not a question, not quite a statement, it’s an installation by Maurizio Nannucci; an electrifying sign of what’s inside. The thing is, you’ll want to see it all.
You’ll want to see the Lloyd Wright house with its architectural garden featuring boxwood globes and a giant metal Calder sculpture; you’ll want to be greeted by Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons in the foyer, view Jasper Johns’ Target and Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes and Campbell’s Soup Can in the sunroom, enjoy the James Rosenquist Portrait of the Scull Family in the upstairs gallery, and see Damien Hirst’s epic Blue on Blue circular painting of butterflies adjacent to a Picasso portrait, which hangs among a Basquiat, a Rauschenberg and another Lichtenstein in the dining room. And of course there’s the Matisse from Jane Nathanson’s parents’ collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, hung quietly over the fireplace in the library. That’s just upstairs. The art gallery is actually on the floor below.
The Nathansons are devoted not only to their impeccable collection of contemporary and pop art, but also to displaying it in a home where it more than just complements the decor, it is the decor. In fact, it’s impossible to separate the house from its holdings. “I feel art creates space wherever it is,” says Jane Nathanson, “It married the house. The marriage of contemporary art and 1920s design makes the architecture and the art stand out.”
The Nathanson residence was built in 1927 as the show house for the Holmby Hills area. “Everyone lived in Hancock Park then,” says Jane. “Beverly Hills was considered the country.” As a real estate broker in the 1980s (she’s now a practicing psychotherapist), Jane was showing the house, complete with orange and green carpeting, to clients “who just couldn’t imagine what it could be.” She and her husband, then a cable-TV executive, decided to buy it and restore its architectural integrity, returning the moldings and fireplaces, along with the ceiling height, to their origins. She leveled the terraced rose gardens with dirt from Aaron Spelling’s construction project down the block. A second renovation a decade ago created the downstairs gallery. The result is a Mediterranean-style exterior with a minimalist, monochromatic interior that doubles as a showcase for their extensive, and changeable, holdings. (When they bought the residence, a friend told them it was included in a book of great homes in L.A. Nathanson tracked down the publication and discovered it was titled Bastardized Houses in Los Angeles.)
The Nathansons are also devoted to sharing art, which is why Jane, who co-founded MOCA and is currently on the board of LACMA, is co-chairing the museum’s sold-out April 18 gala along with fellow LACMA trustees Ann Colgin and Lynda Resnick. She and Resnick are also chairing the campaign to encourage promised gifts of art to commemorate LACMA’s 50th anniversary—because, in Jane’s rhetorical words: “What do you give a museum for its birthday?” At the gala, the resulting exhibit, “50 for 50: Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA’s 50th Anniversary,” will be revealed.
Jane lights up when she talks about the institution. “It’s my big passion now,” she says. “I really feel it’s becoming the city center. Museums are like churches or temples: Anyone can go and have a Zen experience or an exciting experience or any kind of experience you want. You don’t have to look a certain way or believe in anything.”
The Nathansons have announced the promise of eight works to LACMA, many of which will be part of the exhibit (open to the public April 26), including Warhol’s Two Marilyns, Rosenquist’s Portrait of the Scull Family, George Segal’s Laundromat and Lichtenstein’s Interior With Three Hanging Lamps.
“I really believe the best place for a piece of art to be is in a museum where future generations can enjoy it,” Jane says, echoing the message of a piece in her upstairs gallery by Barbara Kruger: The
Future Belongs to Those Who Can See It.
By Martha McCully.
Photographed by Roger Davies.