Hammer nails a major collection

Times Staff Writer

Continuing to build its contemporary art holdings despite prohibitive market prices, the UCLA Hammer Museum has been chosen by Colorado developer Larry Marx and his wife, Susan, to inherit their collection of drawings and other works on paper by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha and other major figures of the post-World War II era.

Neither the museum nor the Marxes placed a dollar value on the gift, which Gary Garrels, the Hammer’s chief curator and deputy director of exhibitions, said has been written into the Marxes’ will. The Hammer will have a free hand in borrowing or displaying pieces from the collection until the Aspen, Colo., couple, who also have a home in Marina del Rey, die or decide to convey them. The collection also includes works by Claes Oldenburg, Richard Diebenkorn, Philip Guston and Brice Marden

Garrels said that, given an exploding contemporary art market, the present value of the collection is “seven figures or more.”

The Hammer, which already owns more than 45,000 pieces of graphic art dating from the Renaissance, is spending its acquisition funds on not-yetestablished artists, betting it can pick tomorrow’s stars today at affordable prices. The Marx gift, focused on the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, helps the museum fill a void in its collection.

“For us, this is an absolute dream collection, a cornerstone for decades to come,” Garrels said. The bequest also includes paintings by Joan Mitchell and Eva Hesse.


The Marxes, 61-year-old Stanford graduates, continue to collect drawings and other works on paper and plan to add to the portfolio bound for the Hammer.

“It’s very much an ongoing relationship,” Larry Marx, a Wall Street investment fund manager turned developer, said Friday.

The Marxes previously had given large paintings by de Kooning and Eric Fischl to the Denver Art Museum but decided the Hammer would be the best home for their works on paper and related paintings because of its focus on the genre.

“A dear friend of mine, an important collector who has given a lot of art to San Francisco MoMA and the Denver Museum, advised me to make sure [my] art went somewhere it would be important,” Marx said. “I’m pretty convinced the Hammer is a good home for our kids, so to speak.”

The Marxes began visiting the Hammer Museum about seven years ago. Two winters ago, they invited Garrels and museum director Ann Philbin to Aspen to browse their collection, for which they wanted to secure a permanent, public home.

The museum leaders gradually won the donors’ confidence that the Hammer was the right repository because of its aesthetic direction, its university presence and its solid fiscal grounding.