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Sargent Masterpiece Sold By Berry-Hill Galleries Announced As Promised Gift to LACMA

Oscar-winning actress Barbra Streisand will donate John Singer Sargent's Mrs. Cazalet and Children Edward and Victor (1900–01), an oil painting over eight feet tall, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Museum officials have declined to place a value on the piece, but a companion painting, William Marshall Cazalet (1902), fetched $1.8 million at Christie's New York in 2007. Sargent's record at auction is $23.5 million, for Group with Parasols (A Siesta), 1905, which sold at Sotheby's New York in 2005, and, according to the artnet Price Database, 17 of his paintings have exceeded the $2 million mark at auction.

The two paintings, commissioned by the English family, would have hung at the Cazalet's Fairlawne Estate in Kent, England. The two children depicted in the LACMA canvas, which was likely sold along with the family home in the 1970s, both died in combat, during the First and Second World Wars.

News of Streisand's gift, reported by the Los Angeles Times, comes by way of the Sony e-mail leak. Sony Entertainment chief executive Michael Lynton is a member of the LACMA board, of which Streisand was a member from 2007 to 2014. The current board also includes radio personality and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest (see Ryan Seacrest Joins LACMA's Board of Trustees).

The gift has been promised as the museum prepares to begin celebrations for the 50th birthday of its Wilshire Boulevard home, which opened in 1965. The institution has received several other major gifts, including $500 million from former Univision head Jerry Perenchio (see Billionaire Jerrold Perenchio Gifts $500 Million to LACMA) to fund its planned expansion (see LACMA Condo Tower Plan Angers Angelenos and LACMA Tweaks Expansion Plan to Make Space for Tar Pits).

“Before even beginning our campaign [to secure anniversary gifts of art] . . . Barbra Streisand leapt forward with a major promised gift," wrote LACMA director Michael Govan in a February 25, 2014, trustee newsletter e-mailed to Lynton. “The dazzling portrait will add incredible depth to our Sargent holdings and will greatly enhance our already strong collection of American art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries."

The Sony e-mails also mention an upcoming exhibition that will feature the collection of new museum trustee Ann Ziff, the chair of New York's Metropolitan Opera, and detail Govan's efforts, supported by Lynton, to secure city funds for the expansion project.

The Sargent painting will join LACMA's collection after the actress's eventual death. Streisand purchased the piece from New York's Berry-Hill Galleries in a private sale in 2002.

Gallery chairman James Berry Hill declined to speculate on the painting's value today, but did tell artnet News that he had recently been offered several inferior Sargent paintings, each "in excess of $20 million." He spoke highly of Streisand, to whom he has sold numerous Sargents, saying "she's a very wonderful person and a savvy collector."

"It is a piece that needs breadth and space," the Funny Girl star wrote to the Times in an e-mail. "It needs to be displayed on a museum wall, and LACMA fits the bill."

Streisand has been an enthusiastic art collector since 1992, when attending President Bill Clinton's inauguration "inspired me and drew me to collecting 18th and 19th century American furniture and art as a way to celebrate my love for this country," she said to the Times. "It was a time of special optimism and I wanted to grace my walls with those painters America had given to the world."

LACMA intends to hang Mrs. Cazalet alongside Sargent's Portrait of Mrs. Edward L. Davis and Her Son, Livingston Davis (1890), already part of the museum's collection.

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