LACMA Acquires $40 Million ‘Big Lebowski’ House
The gift also comes with a James Turrell Skyspace.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has received a sizable donation in the form of a unique, John Lautner-designed home estimated at over $40 million. The 1963 house’s gravity-defying architecture, distinctive, triangular concrete roof, and position high above Beverly Hills make it an architectural gem, but it also has a Hollywood past: it was featured in the 1998 Coen brothers hit The Big Lebowski as pornographer Jackie Treehorn’s home.
However, the Sheats-Goldstein House has a fairly respectable past. It was originally built for Helen and Paul Sheats, and was purchased by donor James F. Goldstein nearly a decade later, in 1972. The Los Angeles Times reports that when Goldstein, an investor, first visited the house it was already in escrow, but he quickly fell in love and agreed to pay the full asking price of $185,000—a major steal, by today’s standards.
The gift of the home to LACMA, where it will be used to hold fundraisers, exhibitions, conferences, and other events, also comes with a $17 million endowment for maintenance, as well as a James Turrell Skyspace.
Since his appointment in 2006, museum director Michael Govan has expressed interest in acquiring landmark Los Angeles homes with unique architectural backgrounds. However, Goldstein was the first potential donor to bite.
“I want the house to be an educational tool for young architects, and I want to inspire good architecture for Los Angeles,” Goldstein said.
Lautner, a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple, designed over 200 buildings in his lifetime, largely in the Southern California area. The Sheats-Goldstein house is considered a good example of American Organic Architecture, a term coined by Wright that implies intentional harmony between buildings and the natural world that surrounds them.
Goldstein conducted extensive renovations in 1979, transforming both the home and the hillside it sits upon. Lautner supervised the work, which included replacing all the windows with giant sheets of glass, replacing a sparse landscape with a lush tropical garden, and commissioning custom concrete couches and tables for the living area (on which The Dude reclined in the iconic film).
Since Lautner’s death in 1994, Goldstein has worked with his student Duncan Nicholson on renovations like the addition of a tennis court and three-level nightclub and office area across the street from the property, which are all a part of the LACMA donation. A screening room is also currently in the works.
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