UCLA Luskin Conference Center Quarterly Newsletter — April 2018

UCLA professor emeritus gifts sculpture collection to the Conference Center

Professor emeritus, Dr. Arthur M. Cohen, has not only spent his career in higher education at UCLA, but has now become a generous contributor to the UCLA Luskin Conference Center’s art collection. After his beloved wife, Florence, passed away a few years ago, he says he “started thinking about what to do with [their sculpture collection],” wanting it to be housed where a larger audience could view and enjoy it. After calling a few museums to see if he could find a new home for the collection, he was told they “weren’t a fit.” In one case, he was asked if he could bring a couple of the pieces by so the museum curators could take a look. The latter request was no light task, given that all the sculptures are made of bronze, travertine or marble.

The answer came when Dr. Cohen recollected that he had had lunch recently at Plateia, the Luskin Conference Center’s restaurant. Impressed with the beauty of the building and the existing art collection housed throughout the property, Dr. Cohen thought the conference center might make a good home for he and his wife’s collection. So he dropped a note to Meyer Luskin, asking him to consider the possibility. Meyer immediately put him in touch with Pete Angelis, Assistant Vice Chancellor for UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services, which oversees the conference center. Mr. Angelis, along with Barbara Wilson, interim Director of the Luskin Conference Center, visited Dr. Cohen at his home, enthusiastically taking photos of the pieces, and the rest — as they say — is history. With transport trucks coming to his home a few days later, his neighbors thought he was moving. But when they found out only the sculptures were leaving, he recounts, he “received many beautiful letters from them” saying he was “doing the right thing” by donating the collection. As one friend wrote him, “Given your history at UCLA, you’ve almost come full circle.”

A very personal aspect of this sculpture donation process was figuring out where to place each piece in the conference center. Dr. Cohen, along with Mr. Angelis, Ms. Wilson and Devon Brown from The UCLA Foundation, walked around the property to determine where each piece should be placed. “If Florence had been there, she would have been doing back flips! She loved to place art. That was her forte,” says Dr. Cohen.

And Dr. Cohen’s forte was higher education. With a newly minted Ph.D. in 1964, he was offered a teaching position at UCLA’s graduate school of education. With a 40-plus year career in academia, many grants under his belt and chair of more than 70 doctoral degrees, he can claim he has students working in higher education all over the country.

The Cohen’s started collecting sculptures around 1980 when they met Adam Mekler, a Los Angeles gallery owner who introduced them to abstract sculptor Minoru Niizuma. Their first sculpture purchase was one of Niizuma’s pieces, “Torso,” which is on view at the Luskin Conference Center. Over time, they acquired seven Niizuma sculptures. Later came acquisitions from other prominent sculpture artists Jack Zajac — with whom they became good friends — as well as Sorel Etrog and Dimitri Hadzi.

“Everyone’s been happy with [this decision] to donate the sculptures to the Luskin Conference Center,” he enthuses. And living not far from UCLA, he knows he can visit them any time. “I’ve got them in a second home” at the conference center.

See this stunning sculpture collection in person during your next visit to the Luskin Conference Center, or come just because of it!