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A Gala Grand Opening for Pavilion for Japanese Art

“Just come back in the daylight to see it,” mega-collector and contributor Joe Price kept telling the black-tie crowd Saturday night at the gala dinner celebrating the opening of the Pavilion for Japanese Art. “See us in daylight. Don’t judge by tonight.”

“He’s been running around inside, adjusting the lights, all evening,” Dee Sherwood said, explaining that the building “glows in the daytime.” Daisy Belin agreed, saying that Price had asked her, “Promise me you’ll come in the daylight.”

For the record:

12:00 AM, Sep. 23, 1988 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 23, 1988 Home Edition View Part 5 Page 6 Column 3 View Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Because of incorrect information supplied by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Toshio Nagamura was incorrectly identified Monday in Marylouise Oates’ column. Nagamura is chairman of California First Bank.

But the evening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was really one of promises fulfilled--an “unprecedented” example of Pacific Basin fund-raising, a “reminder of a collaboration that has never existed before,” a “shared commitment,” LACMA director Earl Powell III summed up.

In the audience, the ones who made the collaboration happen: Price and his wife, Etsuko, who have donated their personal collection of Japanese art and contributed $5 million toward the $12-million-plus “hand-built” building; Toshikuni Yahiro, the chairman of Mitsui and the head of the Japan-based committee that contributed $4 million to the pavilion, and Powell himself, along with trustees such as Dick Sherwood, who “wooed” Price to bring his renowned collection to Los Angeles. “The ‘go’ came very early,” Powell said, continuing to heap praise on the very modest Prices.

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Yahiro pointed out that the $3 million collected since 1986 had been kept in yen--and “yielded an additional $1 million” because of the changing rate of exchange. “It was pure luck--but I am sure it is a good omen for the pavilion,” he said.

The luck of raising the money, of the Prices’ extraordinary donations and efforts and of the completed venture was celebrated all evening. Red is the celebratory color in Japan, and the tables in the Times Mirror Court were covered in red, decorated with red floral pieces--and the dinner served up by Somerset included rings of sekihan, the red rice considered a sign of good fortune in Japan.

The evening was full of small, warm touches. When the Prices were praised by museum trustees President Daniel Belin and the applause broke out, Etsuko Price directed her applause across the table to her husband. Belin also singled out for praise Ed Carter, Camilla Frost, Wally Weisman, Julian Ganz Jr. (“Well, I’ll have to clap for him,” Jo Ann Ganz kidded), Robert Maguire (“who gave a great deal of himself”) and Tohio Nagamura, the chairman of California Federal. Nagamura, ill in Japan, sent his daughter, Makiko Yamada, to represent him at the event and a letter saying: “My heart is with my American and Japanese friends gathered tonight . . . (at this) symbol of our longstanding friendship.”

Yahiro was clear that the joint effort between collectors, the Japanese business community in Los Angeles and the business community in Japan backed up his “belief that the 21st Century would indeed be the era of the Pacific Basin. Los Angeles will play a significant role as the American capital.” For Yahiro, the “deeper understanding” permitted by such cultural ventures would mean a “less controversial” view of the Japanese economic community.

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Frances Bushell chatted with Robert Singer, the new curator of Japanese art. (Back from a 13-year stay in Tokyo, Singer is a third generation Angeleno, whose grandfather was head of the Keith Orpheum Circuit.)

Bushell and husband, Raymond, have contributed some 141 netsuke to the Pavilion, part of their world-renowned collection of 600 such miniature, carved sash toggles. “My husband likes little things,” she said, “I like big things,” like Chinese jade. “I think I was Chinese before I was Japanese,” she kidded.

Just as singular as the Price and the Bushell collections is the building that will house them, designed by Bruce Goff with Bart Prince as the project architect. “There are only two straight walls in the building,” Singer explained to a table that included L.A. County Supervisor Ed and Mari Edelman. “When they brought the first crew in, the young men couldn’t handle the plastering. They had to get old men, retired plasterers who had worked on Art Deco buildings in the 1930s, to come back and do it.”

In the crowd--Dona and Dwight Kendall (off to France for several weeks), Glen and Gloria Holden (back from a quick visit with George and Barbara Bush in Northern California), Terry and Lionel Bell, Iris and Gerald Cantor, Hannah and Edward Carter, Susie and Rob Maguire (his work for the museum coming in for special praise from Powell), Joan and John Hotchkiss and Julian and Jo Ann Ganz (off to Italy next month, as part of a special tour by the National Gallery), former U.S. Ambassador to Japan James Hodgson and his wife, Maria, and Consul General of Japan Hiromoto Seki and his wife, Kazuko.

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Supervisor Edelman, pointing out another unique collaboration--that between the private sector and the county government at the museum--told the dinner guests, “We will maintain any other building that you want to build. That’s an offer.”

The opening of the Japanese Pavilion brings to five the number of buildings making up the art museum complex on Wilshire Boulevard. “The entire museum is now in a stage of evolution,” director Rusty Powell pointed out--but his position, surrounded by buildings, pointed out the museum’s advancement as clearly as did his words.

The evening ended with a kampai toast, from Belin. And, of course, promises that everyone would be back to see the building and the collection in the daylight.

NAMING NAMES--Brand names, that is, dropping in to celebrate the re-doing of Fred Hayman’s Giorgio Beverly Hills. The evening celebrated the first phase of the face-lift of the Rodeo Drive landmark--the “ladies department"--and of the latest phase of one of Los Angeles’ landmark authors, Judith Krantz, and her newest, “Till We Meet Again.”

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Krantz set her first best-seller, “Scruples,” in Hayman’s Giorgio store--its distinctive look soon to be only a memory. That’s because Hayman’s agreement with Avon, which bought his Giorgio fragrance company in May, 1987, was to give up the store name and its signature yellow and white stripes.

Hayman’s signature customers crowded in for a supper of caviar, smoked salmon and Dom Perignon.

Murray Korda and his Monseigneur Strings provided the background for the first look around. Major jewelry and major designers decorated the bunch--including Happy and Frances Franklin, Jaclyn Smith, Jacques Camus with Doris Fields, Mary and Brad Jones, Jimmy and Anne Murphy and the beautiful Victoria McMahon, with Ed and lots of stories about their terrific daughter. Krantz and her husband, Steve, talked politics with the Democratic Finance Council’s Irv Kipnes.

Kurt Niklas and Ini Asman were going “home for dinner. To the Bistro, of course,” she added, and taking along Jayne and Henry Berger. There was no shopping, only looking, although Gordon Davidson announced, “I want Judi to pick something out for our anniversary,” and she quickly looked around for witnesses. Fred’s steady, Betty Endo; Jill Ireland (with hubby Charles Bronson); Rosemarie Stack; Jackie Collins, and Loretta Swit provided the necessary glamour. Helen Chaplin was serenaded by Korda and got his promise that he would play at the opening of Checkers Hotel downtown.

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Hayman said that his store was “the same, only better,” but refused to tell what the new name would be.

Now, Fred’s older German sheperd is named Giorgio. And his new one is called “Chumley.”


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