Fine art and fine dining have a long history of cooperation when it comes to the enjoyment of life’s pleasures. But the way Beverly Hills’ Amalfi-inspired Nerano put them together is something rather special. In addition to showcasing a rotating installation of small and larger works by emerging and established artists throughout the dining rooms and upper lounge, Nerano owners Andy and Carlo Brandon-Gordon have implemented a commission-to-donation relationship with LACMA, in which work debuting at the restaurant is already promised as a gift to the museum’s collection.
The first piece in this innovative plan comes from L.A.-based artist Sam Durant. Commissioned specifically for and currently on display at (well, sort of outside, in a way) Nerano’s upstair bar, “Empathy for Everyone” (2017) is from the artist's ongoing electric sign series. The works — one of which already graces LACMA’s exterior, and several others of which were shown at Art Basel last year and more recently at Expo Chicago 2018 — reference hand-painted protest signs and slogans, such as the 2017 Women’s Marches, as well as much earlier protest events going back decades in history.
The work joins several others by Durant in LACMA's permanent collection, notably the electric sign “Like, man, I'm tired (of waiting)” (2002), which arrived as a promised gift from Susan Hancock in honor of the museum's 50th anniversary, and which currently adorns the exterior overlooking the western courtyard. Andy Brandon-Gordon has been on the museum's board since 2005, serving as co-chair from 2007 to 2015. This unique donation structure reportedly was Michael Govan’s idea; he is said to have landed on it while he was eating at Nerano.
And speaking of exteriors, although the lightboxes and prints can be shown to dramatic effect in interior spaces, there’s something about the backlit vinyl lettering and colorful grounds that reference billboards and commercial signage in the most interesting way — replacing advertisements for products with mottos for humanitarianism and resistance. At Nerano, the work is installed not inside the room but rather on a wall directly facing the second-story clubhouse window, giving the work a dual presence, as it is experienced quite differently day or night.
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“Carlo and I are pleased to support local artists and LACMA through this initiative,” Andy Brandon-Gordon said. “Our love of food and wine, coupled with our passion for art, makes this a perfect fusion for the community to enjoy.” Some 25 to 30 other artists are on periodically rotating display throughout the space, courtesy of either the owners’ own personal collection or, more often, loaned from the Jane and Marc Nathanson family collection. The Nathanson family are the landlords of Nerano, as well as of the Marc Selwyn Gallery across the street, so there’s a relationship there as well — likened by Andy Brandon-Gordon as being somewhat along the lines of what Wolfgang Puck did at Spago, working with the Marciano brothers to show contemporary art in the cuisine context.
Nerano, 9960 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; neranobh.com.