Marcia Simon Weisman; Patron of Arts


Marcia Simon Weisman, an art enthusiast and philanthropist whose vision made possible Los Angeles’ prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art, died Saturday after a stroke.

Family spokeswomen said she suffered the massive stroke early last week and was admitted to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where she died at age 73.

Among her interests was a devotion to placing fine art in public places. The medical center where she died was among the favored spots. Through her efforts, hundreds of art patrons and several galleries, corporations and artists have donated art to Cedars.

As early as 1985 she led a program in which a percentage of development costs in the Central City was spent to display works of art where they would receive maximum exposure.

She built one of the country’s leading collections of contemporary art. It includes prints, sculptures and paintings by artists ranging from Willem de Kooning to Andy Warhol. Her interest was sparked when, as a student at Mills College in Oakland, she took a painting class.


She married businessman Frederick Weisman in 1938. They began collecting in 1952 after her husband left the employ of his brother-in-law, Norton Simon, and founded a business empire.

Their first piece, Jean Arp’s sculpture “Self-Absorbed,” became the nucleus of a 1,000-piece collection that some have valued at $100 million.

Marcia Weisman was considered the guiding force behind the acquisitions, making most of the decisions.

Although they divorced in 1979, the two remained on friendly terms.

One of the paintings she acquired in their amiable property settlement was Jasper Johns’ “Map,” which she donated last year to the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was considered the most important piece in her collection. Johns’ works consistently sell for millions of dollars.

She had envisioned the museum for years before prevailing on her longtime friend, Mayor Tom Bradley, to provide city land for it. When it opened in its permanent home on Grand Avenue between 3rd and 4th streets in 1986--seven years after its conception--it was because of that vision and $1-million contributions from Eli Broad, Max Palevsky and Atlantic Richfield Co.

Born in Oregon, Mrs. Weisman came to San Francisco--her father’s birthplace--in 1929, after the death of her mother. Mrs. Weisman’s sister, Evelyn Simon Prell, said her father, Meyer Simon, and brother, Norton Simon, later founded Val Vita Food Products, a forerunner of Hunt Wesson Foods.

While Norton Simon also became an art devotee and internationally renowned collector, he concentrated on Old Masters and Impressionists while the Weismans explored the art world of their own time.

Marcia Weisman became a patron of California artists, placing their work in buildings ranging from the Mayo Clinic to the Senate Office Building in Washington.

She also began to share her knowledge of art, taking small groups on tours of private collections and studios.

Most recently, Mrs. Weisman concentrated on accumulating drawings, an area she said she had been interested in as a girl but which she had neglected in the intervening years.

Among her various civic activities was membership in the President’s Circle of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Collectors’ Committee, National Gallery of Art in Washington; as a trustee of the University Art Museum, UC Berkeley, and as a trustee of the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kan. She also was a former member of the California Arts Council.

Mrs. Weisman said that over the years she found that Los Angeles had reached a certain civic maturity regarding art.

In a 1988 article in the New York Times, she said that the wealthy were supporting projects that benefit the city. “You can buy only so many suits, so many cars, and now they are putting it into art. They find themselves looking for their own immortality.”

In addition to her sister and brother, she is survived by two sons, Richard and Daniel, a daughter, Nancy, and two granddaughters.

A memorial service is scheduled at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where Mayor Bradley will be among the speakers.

In lieu of flowers the family is asking contributions to MOCA or to the newly created Cedars Sinai Medical Center Art Fund.