Lew Wasserman, the talent agent-turned-studio chief, was known to keep his art collection — which included such Impressionists as Degas and Matisse — largely under wraps in his Beverly Hills home. Beatrice and Philip Gersh, who, like Wasserman, started collecting in the ’50s, were among L.A.’s most avid art patrons.
But in the highly competitive world of top talent agencies, where presentation is just as key as deal points and digs are increasingly reliant on the wow factor, the art is winding up at the office. Michael Ovitz, whose family was listed among the top 200 art collectors last year by ARTnews, raised the bar during his go-go days at CAA, when the agency’s I. M. Pei-designed building in Beverly Hills boasted a 27-foot-high Lichtenstein.
CAA’s current Century City offices are known to have as many as 400 works on display, while Gersh’s sons Bob and David now oversee that agency’s archive.
Enter UTA co-founder Jeremy Zimmer, who chose to go public with the bulk of his art collection by making the agency’s headquarters a veritable museum. Of the nearly 200 works of contemporary art that adorn the offices and corridors of UTA’s modernistic space in Beverly Hills, the vast majority are owned by the agency CEO, many of them prized photographs by the likes of Gregory Crewdson and Sally Mann.
One of the two Ed Ruschas in the UTA collection, Slave/Master Complex, hangs in Zimmer’s office, along with a painting by Zimmer’s grandmother, Miriam Svet.
The works range from the gargantuan, a 9-foot-by-27-foot textile work by California multimedia artist Pae White in the main reception area, to the more intimate, such as the three untitled 24” X 20” Polaroid prints from David Levinthal that form a kind of cowboy triptych in one of the hallways.
Hiroshi Sugimoto, known for his moody photographs of old American movie palaces and drive-ins, might be the most prominently represented. His Lightning Fields 144 provides a starkly dramatic image facing the main stairwell, as does Andreas Gursky’s large-scale Kuwait Stock Exchange II.
Jon Rafman, who appropriates found images from Google Street Views, is featured with Jigokudani Monkey Park #2, perhaps the most painterly of the photos on display.
Art consultant Tiffiny Lendrum has worked with Zimmer for the past year to manage the collection and organize its placement. “What makes a space and a collection look really good is the marriage of the two,” she says.
She calls Zimmer a passionate connoisseur with a great eye for photography who “collects from his gut.”
“A lot of people could sit back and wait for images to be emailed to them or sent in a catalog,” she says. “Jeremy attends art fairs, he goes to galleries to see work that he’s interested in. He reads a lot.”
And as Lendrum will tell you, keeping abreast of up-and-coming artists is no mean feat. “I think music is a really good analogy,” she explains, “because as soon as you know 10 things, then there are five new ones, if not 20. There’s always new stuff.”