Big Art Auction This Weekend to Aid MOCA

It would be hard for this event to get lost in the royal shuffle--the Duke and Duchess of York will be welcomed by the city the same day--but, just in case, here’s a reminder that the giant art auction benefiting the Museum of Contemporary Art is indeed on Saturday.

The MOCA mavens now have this every-other-year benefit down to a science, and, this year, the formula includes 235 works valued, at the high end, at more than $1.6 million. Just over $1 million of the works--including a Sam Francis acrylic, a Lichtenstein print, a Diebenkorn color drawing--will be sold at live auction, conducted by John L. Marion, from New York’s Sotheby’s.

Munchies and Drinks

The party is at MOCA’s Temporary Contemporary--with pre-auction munchies and drinks (the better to make you bid, my dear) and a buffet dinner afterward, masterminded by Rococo’s Ray Henderson, that will allow tired bidders the chance to regain their energy for the disco that is also planned.


MOCA and its board have been marked by a real feeling of camaraderie, which just might come from being the new kid on the artistic block. Lots of those who paid $400 to attend the auction and party showed up last Friday night for the preview of the art at the Jan Turner Gallery and the Tamara Bane Gallery. The patrons then headed off to special dinners at the homes of Doug Cramer and Jane and Marc Nathanson (Doug and Jane are the executive producers of the benefit), Marcia Weisman, Dan Melnick, Bea and Phil Gersh, Councilman Joel Wachs, Lennie and Bernie Greenberg, Kelli and Allen Questrom, Joan and Fred Nicholas and Merry and Bill Norris.

Co-chairs for the party are Ellie Goldman, Judy Henning and Shirley Familian, and chairing the auction are Bob Gersh and Scott Spiegel.

One surprise, especially since this is contemporary art, is that many of the missives from the press office at MOCA refer only to “Mr. and Mrs,” with many of the women board members only referred to by their husbands’ names (unless, of course, they are divorced).

REPEAT SUCCESS--It’s only the third time that the legal establishment has gathered to both raise money for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and to honor those in the legal profession who have contributed to public service.

Honored this year with LAFLA’s Maynard Toll Award were retired California Supreme Court Associate Justice Otto M. Kaus and two young attorneys who have contributed thousands of hours working for the poor, Sharon Hartmann of Irell & Manella and Brian Monkarsh, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Since its inception, the luncheon has been chaired by Barbara Y. Johnson, state chief assistant attorney general and a former chair of the Legal Aid board.

The luncheon, surprisingly for those involved, turned out to be quite a family affair. Robert Raven, the new president of the American Bar Assn., made his remarks on “Gideon Unfinished,” referring to Gideon v. Wainwright, the 1963 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision granting poor people the right to an attorney, and the expert he kept quoting was California Appellate Judge Earl Johnson Jr. (yes, Barbara’s husband).

Raven pointed out that, “It is astonishing that this most basic right for a poor person--the right to an attorney when charged with a serious crime--was established only 25 years ago . . . ‘Gideon’ was a great decision, but it fell short.”

Raven said that the “limitations are seen most glaringly in the area of legal service to the poor in civil cases . . . at times, it seems that we accept too easily the impact of limited funding for civil legal services.” He then pointed to Justice Johnson as “our conscience and our constant reminder that the United States is virtually the only nation among Western nations that does not recognize the right to counsel in civil cases.”


Raven called for more help in obtaining legal services for the poor before an audience that included former Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Legal Aid board officers Harvey Saferstein and Merrick J. Bobb (with his wife, Van Nuys Municipal Judge Aviva Bobb), Judge Michael Luros and former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Sr., who was commended for appointing Kaus to three different judicial positions.

Kaus said he was thrilled to be joined at the lunch by “the scourge of the city council of Beverly Hills,” his wife Betty, a watchdog on political doings there. And, Kaus said, bringing applause from the crowd, “I have always depended on the kindness of law clerks.”

Also on hand, the hard-working LAFLA executive director, Katharine Krause, who added that to keep the Legal Aid offices going, more than $600,000 had to be raised in addition to government funding.