In bounce 2017, 600 assembly of the aristocracy aggregate central the adapted Masonic temple abreast Koreatown to bless the aperture of the Marciano Art Foundation, the chichi new home for the clandestine accumulating of Guess Inc. co-founders Maurice and Paul Marciano.
Guests from the worlds of Hollywood (Sharon Stone), backroom (Mayor Eric Garcetti), alms (Eli Broad) and art (Takashi Murakami) strolled through the 110,000-square-foot space. On view: 114 works from 47 artists adopted from the brothers’ 1,500 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos, prints and installations. As guests mingled, the loading berth aboideau opened assimilate the parking lot, briefly adapted into a awe-inspiring garden breadth a barbecue was catered by Wolfgang Puck.
The new foundation, allotment of the growing backpack of clandestine museums accustomed by ultra-wealthy art collectors, signaled that the Marcianos had accomplished the acme of ability and authority amid the city’s cultural elite. Jeffrey Deitch, the art banker and above administrator of the L.A. Architecture of Abreast Art, had predicted to the New York Times: “I anticipate this will become one of the best important spaces for abreast art in the accomplished country.”
Alas, it was not to be. Aftermost November, aloof two and bisected years afterwards opening, the Marcianos abashed the burghal and the art enactment by abruptly closing their new showpiece. The brothers abhorrent low attendance, but others affiliated the advertisement to an centralized activity dispute. Aloof one day earlier, the foundation laid off about 70 advisers who were attempting to unionize.
In interviews with The Times, about two dozen bodies complex with the Marcianos or accustomed with their art accumulating and their added enterprises over the years said the cease was added complicated. They acrylic a baffling account of troubles at the foundation from the beginning, citation a abridgement of authoritative anatomy and abiding planning that girds cultural institutions for the continued haul.
The annihilation of the Marciano Art Foundation not abandoned underscores growing tensions amid art assemblage and art workers but additionally raises questions about the accessible account of clandestine museums run by affluent art collectors as foundations. Such establishments, about beheld by skeptics as vanity projects or tax shelters, accept mushroomed in contempo years.
A adumbrative for the foundation and for Maurice Marciano, continued apparent as the active force abaft the foundation, beneath to acknowledge to assorted Times requests for an interview, adage Marciano was traveling and bare for comment. The Marcianos additionally did not acknowledge to an emailed account of questions.
The abrupt cease of the foundation additionally casting a spotlight on the Marciano brothers. With Guess, the Marcianos leveraged sexy, stone-washed jeans into aces abundance and amusing clout. In the Los Angeles circles in which they ran, they aggressive both account and fear.
Many sources affiliated to the Marciano Art Foundation and added Marciano projects beneath to be named, adage they were abashed of retaliation. They declared the art foundation as a case of acceptable intentions batty by ambition, shortsightedness, aberration and ego. Alike afore advisers pushed to unionize, sources said, Maurice Marciano may accept been attractive for an out. As one longtime Los Angeles art apple controlling said of the abrupt closing, “The unionization is abandoned bisected of the story.”
Said Miami-based art adviser Karen Boyer, “To abutting bottomward a architecture that they had spent so abundant time and money on and that had both abiding and acting exhibitions is actual strange.”
The abstruseness remained: Why?
Maurice, 72, and Paul Marciano, 68, who founded Guess with brothers Georges and Armand, began accession in the 1980s. Initially their tastes ran to accustomed bays artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat. By the 2000s, accession the assignment of anxious new artists activated them. They bought pieces by Mark Grotjahn and Sterling Ruby; they championed arising artists like Analia Saban. By all accounts, Maurice took the advance in acquisitions. He able relationships with artists, frequently visiting their studios and galleries.
As Maurice’s accumulating expanded, so did his role in the city’s art community. In 2014 he became co-chairman of the lath at the Architecture of Abreast Art. One actuality accustomed with the board’s dynamics declared him one of the top three or four best acceptable assemblage in L.A. His $20-million allowance apprenticed in 2013 to MOCA helped to accomplishment the afflicted museum.
In 2012 the brothers accustomed the Maurice and Paul Marciano Art Foundation. A year later, they purchased the above Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard for $8 actor and assassin artisan Kulapat Yantrasast to refurbish the building, abandoned back 1994.
In the buzzy countdown to the foundation’s opening, Maurice Marciano told The Times: “We aloof capital to allotment our accumulating and affection for art with the public.”
Although declared as a collective action amid the brothers, the art foundation was Maurice’s project. One actuality who formed anon with the brothers said Paul, who remained arch controlling of Guess (Maurice retired from the aggregation in 2012), did not appetite to authorize the nonprofit and anticipation affairs the temple was excessive. Still, he accurate Maurice.
Contemporary art was booming. According to abstracts aggregate by Art Basel and UBS, all-around art bazaar sales were estimated at $56.6 billion annually by the time the Marciano Art Foundation opened. As added money bashed about in that market, added collectors began to authorize clandestine museums to display their acquisitions. In 2016 the art-collector database Larry’s Account and art business operation AMMA appear the actuality of 317 such museums about the world, 70% of which had been founded back 2000.
Collectors could acquire abundant tax breach on their acquisitions and about-face the accountability of advancement them by altruistic the art to a nonprofit foundation, while still application ascendancy over the works. The abnormality has larboard skeptics apprehensive whether these organizations bear a absolute accessible good, as nonprofits are accepted to do. In 2016, afterwards the Senate Finance Committee looked at the question, Administrator Orrin Hatch wrote in a letter: “Despite the acceptable assignment that is actuality done by abounding clandestine museums, I abide anxious that this breadth of our tax cipher is accomplished for exploitation.”
“The bulk affair is what’s the educational bulk — that’s why there’s a benign tax code,” said Tom Eccles, controlling administrator of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. “Just putting art on the bank in a architecture you own does not acceleration to the accepted of a tax deduction.”
In the Marcianos’ case, Maurice and Paul did not authorize the art amplitude for the tax break, according to a antecedent accustomed with the abutting apparatus of the foundation. The brothers capital ascendancy and adaptability over the use of their collection, so they loaned their art to the nonprofit rather than altruistic it.
The Marcianos’ foundation does own the refurbished temple, however, adopting abeyant questions about its tax-exempt status, and the cachet of art purchased by the foundation accurately for the building, such as the Alex Israel bank mural “Valet Parking,” a accoutrement of the interior. Currently shuttered, the anatomy provides no axiomatic accessible benefit, and the brothers accept not said what they intend to do with the acreage or how it ability be acclimated in the future.
Unlike abounding nonprofit cultural institutions, the Marcianos did not install an alfresco lath of admiral or authorize an endowment. In 2016, Maurice assassin as aesthetic administrator his babe Olivia, 27, whose resume included alive at a New York art gallery. The foundation outsourced its educational programs and functioned with a baby full-time staff. Seventy part-time aggregation account assembly who formed as docents, admission takers and the like were paid L.A.’s minimum wage, currently $14.25 an hour.
In contrast, the 5-year-old Broad architecture in burghal L.A., accustomed by Eli and Edythe Broad, created a lath of directors, has a abiding arch babysitter and apprenticed to actualize an award in balance of $200 million.
The Marciano foundation army abandoned exhibitions by Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson and Donna Huanca and others afterwards hiring a abiding curator. Philipp Kaiser, above administrator of Germany’s Architecture Ludwig and above MOCA curator, bedfellow curated the countdown exhibitions. He declared Maurice as calmly on and accessible to ideas.
“He encouraged me. He gave me a lot of freedom,” Kaiser said. But he added: “It is arduous to run a ample academy afterwards a arch babysitter or administrator who bill a actual specific aesthetic idea. If you abandoned assignment with bedfellow curators, the mission can be calmly too convoluted.”
Overall, sources said, aberration disqualified an action that didn’t accent abiding cerebration or analysis.
The Marciano brothers and their sister, Jacqueline, were built-in in Algeria and Morocco but grew up in Marseilles, France, birth of three ancestors of Orthodox rabbis.
The brothers got their alpha affairs and accomplishment ties on the Cote d’Azur, eventually owning a clamp of accouterment stores. Georges and Maurice came to Los Angeles on anniversary in the backward 1970s, fell in adulation with the burghal and stayed. Paul and Armand followed later. They opened a boutique in Century Burghal declared MGA, afterwards three of their aboriginal initials.
It was Georges who came up with the name Guess and the architecture abaft the Marilyn, a sexy, form-fitting stone-washed three-zipper brace of jeans. Priced at a then-unheard of $60, the Marilyn was a massive hit. In one year, the aggregation racked up $6 actor in sales. Soon the Marcianos were licensing aggregate from sunglasses to bedsheets.
The brothers, who had aggregate a cot in their Marseilles kitchen, remained exceptionally tight. They lived and formed together. Paul created the characteristic advertising, ablution the careers of Claudia Schiffer and Anna Nicole Smith. “No bulk what you do, tastes and fashions change,” he told Wine Spectator magazine. “But the accessible will bethink a face.”
The Marcianos were accepted to be charming, impulsive, airy and blunt. Cinzia Simone, who formed at the aggregation for 12 years as a artisan and afterwards architecture director, said it wasn’t for everyone.
“I admired it. I abstruse a lot,” she said. “They were tough, but that business is not easy. Best bodies didn’t accept their way of accomplishing business. If they didn’t like something, they’d acquaint you and accomplish you feel like you didn’t do well. They are actual amorous about what they do. Sometimes affection can appear above a little wrong. Best bodies couldn’t booty it and left.”
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Guess went accessible in 1996, and the brothers would eventually become billionaires. Added than an immigrant success story, for a time they were alike with the sexy, accidental vibe of 1980s L.A. They bought mansions in Beverly Hills aural blocks of one another. They were mainstays at Spago, breadth Puck declared a pizza afterwards them. Paul afterwards advised the restaurant’s uniforms.
The Marcianos additionally became magnets for controversy. For seven years during the 1980s, they battled the Nakash brothers, the ancestors abaft Jordache, to whom the Marcianos awash a 51% pale in Guess for $5 million. Afore the altercation was assuredly acclimatized (the Marcianos ultimately retained ascendancy of Guess) the parties hurled a account of allegations that prompted a alternation of federal investigations. For starters, the Marcianos claimed the Nakashes tricked them into the auction and blanket designs; the Nakashes declared the Marcianos secretly absent funds from the business. “It’s a shame,” Robert Sutcliffe, a advocate for the Nakashes, said at the time. “With the bulk both abandon are advantageous in acknowledged fees they could buy addition jeans company.”
In the 1990s Guess faced allegations apropos its activity practices. In 1992, as allotment of the Department of Labor’s efforts to able bottomward on abuses in the accoutrement industry, the federal government and Guess accomplished an acceding in which the accoutrement maker agreed to audit its contractors’ workshops regularly, analysis amount annal and achieve added measures to anticipate activity law violations. Seven years later, the aggregation agreed to pay $1 actor to achieve a 1996 accusation alleging its contractors bootless to pay workers minimum allowance or overtime. Under the appear settlement, Guess did not accept to any wrongdoing.
At the about-face of the millennium, a abiding accusation complex Michel Benasra, a adolescence acquaintance of the Marcianos who captivated licenses for Guess Home and Baby Guess. Benasra accused the Marcianos of franchise-law violations in their authorization agreements. The Marcianos, who had concluded his licenses, countered with allegations of mismanagement. He told Forbes, “They don’t aloof like to win. They like to destroy.” The Marcianos prevailed in arbitration, acceptable $7.6 actor amercement for contributed royalties.
Inside the above temple on Wilshire Boulevard, advisers said Maurice managed by fiat.
“He was a little guy, but he was actual loud and not abashed to yell,” said one abandoned who declared affairs in which full-time staffers kept their active angled as Maurice directed his anger.
Adding to the artificial environment, workers said, was Maurice’s impulsiveness. One actuality recalled how exhibition installations would be chaotic back one of Maurice’s celebrity accompany like Leonardo DiCaprio or Haim Saban declared for a clandestine tour, triggering demands to accelerate the work.
Meanwhile the 70 part-time aggregation account associates, or VSAs, began to resent their treatment.
Workers referred to Olivia Marciano as Ivanka because, like President’s Trump daughter, they said, she had been accustomed a huge belvedere with little experience.
The assembly complained that the Marcianos rarely affianced or alike fabricated eye acquaintance with them. “There was a appealing abrupt acumen amid bodies on the attic and bodies in the office,” said Eli Petzold, a above VSA.
Although the VSAs were affirmed a minimum two-day workweek, their schedules were frequently agitated at the aftermost minute. Above accessory Spencer Longo said if Maurice saw the foundation was sparsely busy with visitors, he would accomplish a breeze acumen to abate their hours.
The foundation would shut bottomward for exhibition accession or deinstallation, and VSAs would be put briefly out of assignment afterwards pay for a ages with little notice, Longo said.
Then came the accusation of animal aggravation adjoin Paul Marciano.
In January 2018, archetypal Kate Upton tweeted: “It’s black that such an iconic women’s cast @GUESS is still allotment Paul Marciano as their administrator #metoo.” In an account with Time annual she elaborated, adage he had groped and kissed her during the shoot for an ad attack in 2010. She was 18 at the time and said afterwards she afresh rebuffed him, he became hostile, calling her “disgusting” and a “pig.”
Paul Marciano denied the allegations and in a account declared them “preposterous.” “I accept never been abandoned with Kate Upton,” he said. “I accept never affected her inappropriately.”
Four added women came advanced to allege Paul Marciano of inappropriate comments, texts and exceptionable advances and touching. He stepped bottomward and the aggregation instigated an investigation. In June, Paul appear that he was resigning as controlling administrator of Guess Inc.’s lath and was replaced briefly by Maurice. Guess and Paul Marciano acclimatized with Upton and the four women; calm they accustomed a absolute of $500,000.
Inside the Marciano Art Foundation, ailment was building. Staffers had questions. The Marcianos did not abode the allegations. Guess eventually beatific talking credibility if questions arose internally or externally.
Preparations were underway to arise an Ai Weiwei abandoned appearance in September. According to a antecedent complex in the show, Maurice was presented with the advancement that the foundation abolish Paul’s name from the invitations. He declined.
The accusations adjoin Paul had added ramifications as the foundation talked to Andrea Bowers about ascent a abandoned show. Bowers is an L.A.-based artisan whose assignment addresses amusing issues including women’s rights and altitude change.
Bowers proposed “Open Secret,” a all-embracing accession documenting the hundreds of men accused of animal delinquency in the #MeToo era. A abate abundance had been apparent at the Andrew Kreps Arcade in New York.
According to a antecedent accustomed with the discussions, Maurice wasn’t interested. “The affect was that he didn’t appetite to accompany added absorption to his brother and accomplish it added of a affair of a chat than it was.”
Bowers, who beneath to animadversion to The Times, afterwards showed “Open Secret” at Art Basel aftermost year.
Maurice’s activity for operating accessible art exhibitions appeared to wane, sources said. He came into the foundation less. According to addition abutting to the Marcianos, “I anticipate they saw it as a agleam toy. They capital to appearance off their art and accept big parties … but I anticipate they chock-full caring appear the end of 2018.”
Running a clandestine architecture is a complicated, time-consuming and cher venture.
“He didn’t absolutely apperceive how big-ticket it is to run his own clandestine museum,” said addition complex with Maurice’s art and philanthropies. “He did it in a actual generous, actual capital acceptable way.”
Parties for exhibition openings had accessible confined and guests were accustomed Uber credits to bear them to and fro. One actuality who formed carefully with the foundation said the admirable aperture amount $500,000, and the Ai barrage affair was abutting to $100,000.
The foundation’s 2017 tax filing, the best contempo about available, appear acquirement of $14.9 million. Admission to the foundation was free. According to tax documents, the above contributors were Paul and Maurice, the foundation and Jenny Investments, whose abode is the aforementioned as the Marcianos’ appointment in Beverly Hills.
Someone who formed carefully with Maurice recalled one advancement to defended accumulated sponsorships, but the abstraction didn’t assume to move forward.
At the aforementioned time, advisers at the Frye Art Architecture in Seattle and the Guggenheim in New York, amid others, began a drive to unionize. In February 2019 the Marciano associates, added black with low wages, abridgement of allowances and a absence of opportunities to move up in the organization, began their own advance to organize.
“When we asked for assets it was appealing absurd to get anything, like added basement in the galleries or water, annihilation to accomplish the acquaintance better, the acknowledgment was it was too big-ticket or not on budget,” Longo said.
Then in March, Jamie Goldblatt Manné, the foundation’s agent administrator who had formed with the Marcianos for 10 years, resigned. She was not replaced, and Olivia Marciano took on added responsibility.
When the foundation shut bottomward in November, abounding acquainted blindsided. According to Petzold, approaching shows were actuality planned, admission anxiety had been appear on email. Shows by Huanca and Anna Uddenberg were cut short. One actuality who was complex with exhibitions said a buzz notification of the cease came aloof bisected an hour afore the accessible announcement.
The workers accept back filed a complaint with the National Activity Relations Board, alleging that Paul and Maurice Marciano and the foundation affianced in arbitrary activity practices. A accusation seeks class-action cachet and alleges a abuse of the state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires administration to accommodate able apprehension afore absolute operations and administering accumulation layoffs.
A advocate apery the foundation did not acknowledge to a appeal for comment. However, the foundation’s acknowledged acknowledgment to the suit, filed Jan. 31, “deny about and accurately anniversary and every actual accusation independent in the complaint.”
What happens abutting charcoal an changing question. In theory, the Marcianos could be accountable to IRS scrutiny.
“The architecture is not a accommodating act. Simply owning art but not educating the accessible is not charitable,” said Marcus Owens, a advocate with Loeb & Loeb in Washington, who was aforetime the administrator of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Division. “The catechism is what are the affairs to catechumen the museum? Will it do article to account the public?”
Howard Rachofsky, the retired barrier armamentarium administrator and co-founder of the Warehouse, a clandestine art amplitude in Dallas announcement his own ample accumulating of abreast art, considers Maurice a acceptable friend. He declared the foundation’s annihilation “disappointing.”
“It will become one beneath amplitude accessible for the Los Angeles association and above to get to acquaintance abreast art in a actual absorbing setting,” he said.
Maxwell Anderson, above administrator of the Whitney Architecture of American Art in New York and the Dallas Architecture of Art, is currently admiral of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an Atlanta-based accumulating of African American art from the Southeast.
“Often these clandestine museums are dejected dent collections,” Anderson said, “but they are not antecedents of aesthetic achievement.” Instead, he said, they mostly serve as “an affirmation of acceptable taste.”
What is undisputed: The temple has already afresh closed. At the moment it stands over Wilshire Boulevard, a actual big-ticket accumulator unit.
©2020 the Los Angeles Times
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