Power Collectors

Michael & Dorothy Blankfort

In 1958, Michael and Dorothy Blankfort began their art collection with a painting by Billy Al Bengston that they purchased from Ferus Gallery for $125. The couple would go on to grow their collection considerably, and to become influential patrons of the arts, not least through their relationship with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Dorothy was a literary agent, while Michael was a writer with multiple novels, short stories, plays and screenplays under his belt, including The Caine Mutiny (1954). Notably, Michael allowed his name to be used as a cover for the then-blacklisted screenwriter Albert Maltz for Broken Arrow (1950), a film for which Blankfort was nominated for an Oscar.

Together, the Blankforts built a substantial collection of contemporary works from Los Angeles, New York, and Europe. In 1961, they were among the founding members of LACMA’s Modern and Contemporary Art Council, which Dorothy would chair from 1974 to 1976. Michael served on the Board of Trustees from 1971 to 1982, and prior had served as a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1969 to 1971.

Upon their deaths, the Blankforts donated much of their collection to LACMA, including works by Billy Al Bengston, Yves Klein, Willem de Kooning, and Arshile Gorky.

Art is something you can't teach, but you can inspire it.

Billy Al Bengston

Billy Al Bengston

Based in Venice, California, Billy Al Bengston burst onto the scene in the 1950s with his passion for motorcycle racing and art. Bengston was discharged from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1955 for depleting the clay supply. Following this exit, he enrolled at the Otis Art Institute to study under Peter Voulkos whom he later named as a significant influence, along with Richard Diebenkorn. Bengston found immediate success in the Los Angeles art scene, enjoying multiple solo shows at Ferus Gallery and a 1968 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His artistic output, mainly sculpture and painting, is informed by a variety of influences that range from his love of motorcycles and car-detailing techniques to recurring geometric shapes similar to those of Jasper Johns. Art historian Andrew Perchuck included Bengston among the "West Coast artists, including Robert Irwin and Ken Price, who were instrumental in redefining the terms of artistic identity in the early 60s by insisting that sub-cultural affinities and leisure-time activities (surfing, car customizing) were at the foundation of their artistic personas."

Auction Results Billy Al Bengston