It’s hard to miss James Goldstein sitting courtside at an NBA game or front row at a fashion week show in his eye-catching, habitual uniform: a custom cowboy hat, neckerchief, and luxe coat made with leather or exotic skins – preferably by Saint Laurent.
There’s been speculation on how he’s made his fortune, though no one seems to know for sure. What we do know, however, is that the man has a deep love of basketball, fashion and his one of a kind John Lautner-designed home – which Goldstein is donating, along with its contents and surrounding estate, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a new area of collecting for the museum.
“Once I got the house to a certain level, I realized it had to be preserved,” said Goldstein in his office, full of magazines, books and basketball memorabilia. “I had to do something to make sure that when I wasn’t around, it didn’t get in the wrong hands.”
Goldstein first worked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, but when things fell through after a change of leadership at the organization, he landed on LACMA.
“LACMA really has the vision to carry forward with the house the same way that I would operate it,” he said. “I’m very happy.”
Goldstein bought the house in 1972, after it was built for Helen and Paul Sheats in 1963, and since 1979, collaborated with Lautner (until his death in 1994) to rebuild the space, creating customized furniture and an indoor/outdoor flow, using concrete, wood and frameless glass.
The donation includes works by artists Ed Ruscha, DeWain Valentine, Bernar Venet and Kenny Scharf, as well as the James Turrell Skyspace “Above Horizon” located in the landscaped tropical gardens. It also includes his fashion collection, a 1961 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, a pool, an infinity tennis court and a property designed by Duncan Nicholson (the last architect hired by Lautner), which Goldstein uses to host the likes of Rihanna, who threw a birthday bash there last year.
At a party on Wednesday night, the homeowner played host to filmmaker Ivan Olita, who screened his short film Fabulous James, which features both Goldstein and his estate. “I would see him around and he had this mystery about him, something that I couldn’t understand, which made me very curious about him,” said Olita. “He’s a committed person – committed to beauty, to art. He’s living himself fully and that’s a wonderful quality. He says in the film, this is his legacy.”
Atop the hillsides of Beverly Hills, guests made their way to a drop off location and were chauffeured towards higher grounds to an inconspicuous entrance at the end of a cul-de-sac, where golf carts awaited to take them down the driveway and into the party. Attendees sipped champagne as they toured the house, taking in the architectural sight and breathtaking LA view. The décor was minimal, but displayed photographs of Goldstein with the who’s who of Hollywood stars, NBA players, rappers and pop sensations, as well as portraits of the man himself hanging throughout. The space – which has been used for films such as The Big Lebowski, fashion spreads and music video shoots – is designed down to the ashtrays.
“It’s rare that you have that whole experience of an environment with art,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “What’s amazing is that he wants the future public to have it. That’s so generous, and he’s doing it to enhance Los Angeles, because of his understanding of the great art and architecture that is of this time. We’re talking about the kinds of things he’d like, down to the bookshelf. It will be curated as if it’s alive in the present.”
When the time will come, architecture students, scholars and ultimately the public will be able to access the property on tours.
“I plan on living for a long time, so it might take a while,” joked Goldstein, who continues to look to the future – money being no object, of course.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about something I want to do, how to make everything as perfect as possible without regard to any budget,” he said. A theater, followed by a guest house are next on the agenda. “There’s a lot more work, but it’s been my approach that no matter how long it takes, no matter what it costs, I care about the best way of doing it.”
And what does he hope for future visitors? It’s simple, he said. “For them to come out with an appreciation of modern architecture.”