Steve Martin and Eric Fischl on why L.A. loves art

In the beginning of "A Conversation With Eric Fischl and Steve Martin" at the LA Art House in West Hollywood, Martin pondered our love of art, noting that Los Angeles has built new art museums costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

"I don't think there's any one answer," Martin said. "There's an emotional content, of course, an aesthetic content … a social aspect." Fischl, in turn, said art is the way he processes experience and a way for people to share experiences and participate in the culture.

The two continued exploring the subject at the gallery's March 11 salon, presented with Christie's and the Hammer Museum and attracting, among others, Edythe and Eli Broad, Susan and Leonard Nimoy, Brad Grey and Cassandra Huysentruyt, Linda and Jerry Janger, Lynda Resnick, Keith Addis, Jamie Tisch, LACMA Director and CEO Michael Govan and Katherine Ross, and MOCA's new director, Jeffrey Deitch.

Margie Perenchio, Carole Bayer Sager and Ann Moss are partners in the gallery, which donates 100% of its profit to the Hammer's program for emerging artists.

Hammer Director Ann Philbin called the policy "pretty cool."

Said Perenchio, "When people buy a piece of art, we want them to know they are helping young artists."

At the salon's conclusion, Bette Midler echoed the sentiments of many present. "Your talk was very helpful," she said to Martin and Fischl. "I learned a lot."


Named for Tim Disney's grandparents, REDCAT stands for the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater. At its annual gala March 13, the cutting-edge arts venue saluted Tim Disney, artist Glenn Ligon and the 40th anniversary of the California Institute of the Arts a.k.a. CalArts.

The Disneys "are a celebrated show biz family, but they are low-key in their lifestyle, and their philanthropy is deep and without fanfare," said actress Alfre Woodard, there to honor Tim Disney, who directed her in the film " American Violet."

Actor James Franco spoke for Ligon, the youngest artist whose work hangs in the White House living quarters, "with the possible exception of Malia and Sasha," Franco said.

Catharine Soros and Jamie Lynton co-chaired the affair, which drew 220 people and netted more than $500,000 for the theater, which Soros described as "a space that honors artists." Lynton added, "REDCAT is what the city should be about. It's creative and experimental, a place for artists to do their art."

As Mylar-wrapped chandeliers shimmered above, Don Cheadle led the tribute to CalArts. Harrison Buzz Price received special recognition and Laurie Anderson performed. No standard flowers topped tables at this gala. Rather — in keeping with the theater's edgy spirit — centerpieces featured silver Chinese hand-massage balls in beds of moss.

Arts center groundbreaking

On entering the landmark Beverly Hills Post Office March 11, guests encountered a ballet dancer, solo violinist and conductor in hardhats, setting the tone at the groundbreaking for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

"This is the home run," said the city's mayor, Nancy Krasne.

After previewing plans for the transformation, guests adjourned to the courtyard, where Wallis Annenberg, board Chairman Bram Goldsmith, director Taylor Hackford, actor William H. Macy, former Mayor Vicki Reynolds and others addressed the crowd. Annenberg emphasized the importance of the arts, as "how we chronicle the human experience; how we understand the world around us." She said, "I'd argue it's something we need every bit as much as getting the daily mail."

Joining festivities was Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry, great-granddaughter of humorist Will Rogers, who — as honorary mayor — originally secured building funds for the post office.