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The Crowd: OCMA toasts an L.A. art legend

It is the most sophisticated social event of the year in Orange County.

Art of Dining 2012, the Orange County Museum of Art’s annual fundraising gala, honored Los Angeles art dealer Irving Blum, a visionary collector and exhibitor of contemporary art.

The debonair Blum, director and co-owner of the internationally recognized Ferus Gallery, was honored for a career that has spanned more than 50 years and championed the likes of American contemporary artists Ed Moses, Craig Kauffman, Robert Irwin and John Altoon.

The relationship between Blum, his Ferus Gallery and the Orange County Museum of Art began in the early 1960s, when the museum was a novice in the world of 20th century contemporary art.


Inasmuch as 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the museum, which has grown and evolved over a remarkable span of time, recognizing the contribution of Blum was the perfect marriage of influence in setting the tone for the June 2 gala held at the Montage Laguna Beach.

“Irving represented artists who were changing the very definition of art,” OCMA Director Dennis Szakacs commented. “Irving Blum made it all happen. He personified ‘cool’ then and continues to do so now.”

Szakacs welcomed the Orange County art crowd in the Montage ballroom dressed in elegant cream silk and black accents. The room had been transformed into a chic setting reminiscent of a private salon gathering at New York City’s Pierre hotel in an elegant era past.

The executive host committee responsible for the affair included Marsha Anderson, Twyla Reed Martin, Jennifer Segerstrom, Jennifer Van Bergh, Lilly Merage, Moira Kamgar, Irene Martino, Michelle Janavs, Susan Etchandy and Inga Beder. The dynamic women created a spectacular evening that was not only elegant but super-charged with energy.


It is Szakacs’ style to keep the long and boring executive speeches to a minimum. Instead, the erudite museum director with the black signature horn-rimmed glasses put the spotlight on the guest of honor.

He introduced Blum. Now in his 80s and with the physical appearance of Cary Grant and the intellect of a statesman, Blum delivered a personal and fascinating account of his life’s journey in the art world, beginning with his early career in New York and his mid 20th century move to Los Angeles at the dawn of what would become a West Coast beacon for contemporary artists.

One of Blum’s stories involved his relationship in the early days with the rising star Andy Warhol. Blum was one of the first to want to represent Warhol’s series of “soup can” paintings.

Blum had trouble convincing Warhol that Los Angeles would be an ideal city in which to exhibit the series of 32 works. First, he asked Warhol why there were 32 soup cans, to which the artist replied: “Well, there are 32 varieties of Campbell’s soup.”

The crowd of some 300 art patrons laughed as Blum continued emphasizing that he still had not convinced Warhol to exhibit the work in L.A. Running out of ideas, Blum said he turned to Warhol and said, “Andy, L.A. is the perfect place to exhibit this work. Movie stars come in to the gallery.”

With that, Warhol got excited and agreed.

Blum took a beat and added, “I lied. Movie stars never came into the gallery, and when they did, they were a nightmare to work with.”

But it didn’t matter because Warhol’s paintings became a sensation, and contemporary art and the L.A. art scene was forever changed.


The 50th anniversary museum dinner was underwritten by lead sponsor Cartier, represented by the exquisite Caroline Jones, with additional support from South Coast Plaza, 24 Carrots, Room & Board, M, Nolet’s, Hundred Acre Wine Group, and B. Toffee.

Spotted in the crowd were OCMA VIPs, including board chairman Craig Wells, Sandy Keith, Chief Curator Dan Cameron and Curator Sarah Bancroft.

Best-dressed women of note: Zee Allred, Sally Crockett, Eve Kornyei Ruffatto, Leslie Cancellieri, Dee Higby, Pamela Paul, Carmela Phillips, Laurie Rodnick and Joan Riach-Gayner. The evening ultimately raised more than $600,000 net for the museum.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.