Stewart and Lynda Resnick at the Resnick Exhibition Pavilion at LACMA.

Stewart and Lynda Resnick at the Resnick Exhibition Pavilion at LACMA. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

As Lynda Resnick led the way through the newest building at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s campus last week, she stopped to admire how the light played on her iconic portrait of Marie Antoinette. She hugged and joked with LACMA staff as they walked by.

Resnick and her husband, Stewart, appeared relaxed as they strolled through the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion. That may seem unexpected considering the historic moment: When the building opens Oct. 2, the Beverly Hills couple will join L.A.’s small pantheon of art patrons whose donations are so generous they have a museum building named for them.

The arrival at this vaunted place has not always been easy. Lynda Resnick’s 18-year tenure on the museum’s board has been marked in recent years by a few tensions, notably with L.A.’s other major contemporary arts patron, Eli Broad. And, she said, she was a bit press shy in the past, and generally uncomfortable with the public recognition and demands that big philanthropic gestures tend to generate.

No more. “I’m going with the flow,” she declared.

“It’s been a happy time,” Resnick told the Business Journal. “The museum has had it ups and downs, and I’ve ridden those waves with the rest of the board. And who we are today is the best we’ve ever been in my tenure.”

Although the Resnicks already are known in L.A.’s top business circles and among arts patrons, they will certainly become much better known generally in the city now.

“There are really a few philanthropic people who support the arts,” said Jane Nathanson, wife of billionaire Marc Nathanson, and a longtime friend of Lynda Resnick and fellow LACMA board member. “They are definitely two of the key people in the city.”

The Resnicks are set to be honored Saturday with a private preopening gala at the museum organized by their closest friends, a who’s who of Los Angeles that includes event organizer Jane Nathanson, philanthropist Michael Milken, media mogul David Geffen and former Yahoo Chairman Terry Semel.

Ticket sales have raised about $5 million, which will go toward LACMA exhibitions. About 1,000 guests will enjoy a cocktail reception and a performance by pop superstar Christina Aguilera (an arrangement made by Lynda Resnick’s friend, Shelli Azoff, the wife of Irving Azoff, chairman of Live Nation Entertainment).

The Resnicks donated $45 million for the construction of the 45,000-square-foot pavilion, and have pledged $10 million of their art, for a total $55 million. Their gift, and the naming rights it confers, places them in exclusive company: At LACMA, individual buildings are named after Broad, Armand Hammer and Robert Ahmanson.

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