Robert Rifkind, art collector and philanthropist, dies

Robert Gore Rifkind, a prominent art collector and philanthropist, died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood on Sunday, his family announced. He was 91 years old.

A securities lawyer for four decades, Rifkind has built one of the largest known collections of German Expressionist art in the world. he donated his collection of around 5,000 works on paper and 4,000 books related to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1983. He established the Robert Gore Rifkind Museum Center for German Expressionist Studies, which now comprises around 6,000 works on paper and 10,000 volumes and has become a resource for academics, artists and students around the world.

Works from Rifkind’s collection have been featured in more than 60 exhibitions at LACMA, said Stephanie Barron, the museum’s senior curator and head of modern art, and Rifkind’s third wife. The two had been living apart since 1998.

“As a curator, that kind of easy access to a library and a print collection – it was absolutely a game-changer,” said Barron. “It really helped establish LACMA as a heavyweight in terms of dealing with the subject of German Expressionism, and it put LA on the map.”

Rifkind was born and raised in a wealthy Beverly Hills family. Rifkind’s grandfather opened what were believed to be the first discount drugstore chain in LA. Rifkind’s father was a lawyer, Joseph Rifkind, who later became a judge of the Federal Bankruptcy Court. Rifkin’s mother raised the family, which included Rifkind’s younger brother, Richard.

Rifkind won his degree in English from UCLA, where he was a varsity swimmer and graduated from Harvard Law School in the early 1950s. He started practicing law in 1954, and in the early 1970s he founded Rifkind and Sterling (later Rifkind, Sterling & Levin).

Rifkind married three times, first to Mollie Katz in the early 1950s and then to Gogi Grant, a singer, in the late 1950s. Rifkind and Grant had a son, Joshua Beckett, now 54. year. Rifkind met Barron in 1976 at a LACMA dinner celebrating an exhibition opening. They married in 1984 and had a son, Max Rifkind-Barron, 30.

Rifkind’s passion for German expressionist art was ignited in the early 1970s when he visited an exhibition in the Pasadena Art Museum, now the Norton Simon Museum. He embarked on a two-year research project, reading about the art movement, before purchasing his first print. It was by Emil Nolde, and he bought il from art dealer La Cienega Orrel P. Reed Jr.

Rifkind was drawn to the intensity and rebellious spirit of German Expressionists, he told The Times in 2001. “I like to be stimulated,” he said, referring to what it is. was to live with such scary works of art in his house. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Oppenheimer, George Grosz, Oskar Kokoschka, Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde and Max Beckmann are all represented in Rifkind’s collection.

Soon, Rifkind convinced Reed to close his shop and work for him full time, helping to build his fledgling collection, Barron said. Rifkind had collected prints by early modern artists such as Matisse, Picasso and Chagall; German Expressionists were less popular in the mid-1970s era – and more affordable – and the works spoke to him deeply.

“He went into it with enormous enthusiasm,” said Barron, adding that he had not only acquired a large number of works on paper from galleries, auctions and private sellers, but also literature. who accompanied them. “It was unusual for an individual; it’s usually an institution, ”she said. “It was kind of an old school collection, in terms of digging really deep into something that wasn’t that popular at the time – it was scholarly.”

“Bob Rifkind was passionately drawn to the involvement of Expressionists in the social and internal turmoil they found themselves in,” added Timothy O. Benson, curator of the Rifkind Center. “The First World War and Freud were, for him, the touchstones. “

The grand opening of LACMA’s new building designed by Peter Zumthor, which will be 10% smaller, is scheduled for early 2020, when the Rifkind Center will move to its new home across Wilshire Boulevard, where the museum has of office space and where it will remain for the foreseeable future. The Robert Gore Rifkind Foundation continues to fund the centre’s programs and acquisitions.

“Law and art are very compatible sisters,” Rifkind told the Wall Street Journal in 1983. “But law alone has never been creative enough for me. “

Rifkind is survived by Barron, his two sons and his brother.

Norma D. Ross