Thursday, July 04, 2013

Larry Ellison In The Moment

"He certainly has good taste for a billionaire," a friend remarked at the press preview to In The Moment, a new Asian Art Museum exhibit of the Japanese collection belonging to California's current richest individual, Larry Ellison. (The 13th century sculpture above is Standing Shotoku Taishi at Age Two.)

Among the aggressive software capitalist's many real estate holdings is the Woodside estate above, which according to the museum catalog, "includes a Japanese-style home surrounded by a traditional garden, where only a few visitors have had the opportunity to see [Ellison's collection]."

The former Asian Art Museum director Emily J. Sano above entered the private sphere as Ellison's art buyer/consultant in 2008 and she writes, "The Ellison estate has as many as six places that can accommodate hanging scrolls and five areas for screens. Works of art are changed there every two weeks -- a demanding schedule that requires a robust collection of paintings!"

These include many paintings with animal imagery, particularly cats. One satisfying gimmick in this exhibit is a room with a four-minute cycle of a speeded up day's variable lighting illuminating a screen at different strengths and angles. If Ellison ever invites you to Woodside for a weekend, you will now know how to appreciate the changing light on his Japanese masterpieces.

For three days last week at the museum, the public was invited to gaze on Ellison's other beloved treasure, the America's Cup sailboat racing trophy which Ellison nabbed in 2010 in Valencia, Spain. According to a Wikipedia article about the event:
"The 33rd America's Cup between Société Nautique de Genève defending with team Alinghi against Golden Gate Yacht Club, and their racing team BMW Oracle Racing was the subject of extensive court action and litigation, surpassing in acrimony even the controversial 1988 America's Cup. Since the two parties were unable to agree otherwise, the match took place as a one-on-one deed of gift match in gigantic, specialized multi-hull racing yachts with no other clubs or teams participating. The Golden Gate Yacht Club won the match 2–0 as their yacht USA 17 powered by a rigid wing-sail proved to be significantly faster than Société Nautique de Genève's yacht Alinghi 5. The litigation leading up to the match included which club would be the challenger, the dates and venue for the regattas, certain rules governing the regattas (in particular the measurement rules), and the construction of the boats."

Ellison is up to the same litigious shenanigans in San Francisco Bay this summer as he defends the Cup, with the added pleasures of profiting off of San Francisco taxpayers and underpaid laborers who have been shafted by enthusiastic local politicians, most notably Gavin Newsom, Mayor Ed Lee, and the entire San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

A frequent 19th and 20th century character in fiction and films was the rich archvillain who was also an Epicene Oriental Art Collector, and it is amusing to see the archetype refreshed for the 21st century by Ellison. As my friend said at the press preview, "I'll bet Bill Gates doesn't have anything this beautiful."


Nancy Ewart said...

Love the show, dislike the man and his business practices - but then, most America's museums are built around a core of art purchased by robber barons and their illicit profits.

Axel Feldheim said...

I've been looking forward to your preview of the show :) Nice trifecta of Mr. Ellison's Japanese Garden, the trophy, and the City Hall protest. The show is absolutely gorgeous, no matter what one might think of Ellison.

Civic Center said...

Dear Nancy: If one believes that "most [of] America's museums are built around a core of art purchased by robber barons and their illicit profits," then how does one get around to loving them rather than wanting to simply feel disgust? An honest question.

Dear Axel: Since you were the "friend" I was quoting, I'm so complimented by your kind words, and I agree with you on the exhibit. It's gorgeous. Plus, Mr. Ellison is so transparently and flamboyantly evil that he's rather fun.

janinsanfran said...

Haven't "robber barons and their illicit profits" been the main reason artists have ever been able to eat?

This amateur historian thinks so ...

Hattie said...

Another dissipated guy who can afford anything he wants.
I think that pad looks like David Bowie's place in that 70's movie he made that I can't remember the name of.