New Release
Hollywood Arensberg:
Avant-Garde Collecting in Midcentury L.A.

Mark Nelson, William H. Sherman, and Ellen Hoobler

Louise and Walter Arensberg’s groundbreaking collection is celebrated with a new book release from Getty Publications

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Hollywood Arensberg: Avant-Garde Collecting in Midcentury L.A. (Getty Publications, Hardcover $65.00) 448 pages, (W x H): 9 x 11 103 color and 227 b/w illustrations

LOS ANGELES, CA–Following the Armory Show of 1913, Louise and Walter Arensberg began assembling one of the most important private collections of art in the United States, as well as the world’s largest private library of works by and about the philosopher Sir Francis Bacon. By the time Louise and Walter died—in 1953 and 1954, respectively—they had acquired some four thousand rare books and manuscripts and nearly one thousand works of art, including world-class specimens of Cubism, Surrealism, and Primitivism, the bulk of Marcel Duchamp’s oeuvre, and hundreds of pre-Columbian objects. These exceptional works filled nearly all available space in every room of their house—including the bathrooms.

The Arensbergs have long had a central role in the histories of Modernism and collecting, but images of their collection in situ have never been assembled or examined comprehensively until now. Presenting new research on how the Arensbergs acquired pre-Columbian art and featuring never-before-seen images, Hollywood Arensberg demonstrates the value of seeing the Arensbergs’ collection as part of a single vision, framed by a unique domestic space at the heart of Hollywood’s burgeoning artistic scene.

Hollywood Arensberg: Avant-Garde Collecting in Midcentury L.A. (Getty Publications, Hardcover $65.00) is a comprehensive reconstruction and interpretation of the couple’s collection of modern and pre-Columbian art, taking readers room by room, wall by wall, object by object through the couple’s Los Angeles home in which the collection was displayed. The book will be available for purchase October 22, 2020.


Mark Nelson is an author as well as design director and partner at the book design firm McCall Associates, in New York. He previously authored Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder (Bulfinch, 2006).

William H. Sherman is director of the Warburg Institute in London. Previous works include Norton Critical Edition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, (1st and 2nd editions, W.W. Norton; 2003/2019), Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007/2009), The Tempest and Its Travels (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), and John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance (University of Massachusetts Press, 1997).

Ellen Hoobler is the William B. Ziff, Jr., Associate Curator of the Art of the Americas at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. She previously authored Visual Culture of the Ancient Americas: Contemporary Perspectives (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017).


Hollywood Arensberg: Avant-Garde Collecting in Midcentury L.A. 

Mark Nelson, William H. Sherman, and Ellen Hoobler

Getty Publications, Hardcover

US$65.00/ UK£50.00

448 pages, (W x H): 9 x 11

103 color and 227 b/w illustrations

ISBN: 978-1-60606-666-9

PUBLICATION DATE: 22 October 2020

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“The world and the culture of mid-20th century Los Angeles is deeply enhanced by this book. It is remarkable—a complex, exciting read. Hollywood Arensberg is a foundational study for that thirty-year period from the 1920s to the postwar years and adds to our sense of the rehabilitative promise of early 20th-century Los Angeles. The authors are to be credited for the tone they have struck here: there’s none of that caricatured reflex we still see, that too-easy criticism that would make the Arensbergs sophisticates in a world of L.A. rubes. They note L.A.’s difficult relationship with modernist expression – fair enough – but they also take seriously the world the Arensbergs sought, and created, in their Los Angeles home.”

William Deverell, Director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West


Hollywood Arensberg is the most detailed and intimate portrayal of an art collection ever presented in book form. Louise and Walter Arensberg attended the Armory Show in 1913, an exhibition that transformed their lives, converting them into collectors of the most radical and vanguard art produced at the time. This continued after they moved to Los Angeles in the early 1920s. There, the Arensbergs began collecting pre-Columbian art, which they felt possessed an aesthetic that corresponded perfectly with their modern collection, all of which was dispersed throughout their home in Hollywood, California. With many detailed photographs and diagrams, this book provides a virtual tour through the collection, allowing readers to sense the excitement and exhilaration that was experienced by all visitors to the Arensbergs’ home.”

Francis M. Naumann, Francis M. Naumann Fine Art


“This beautifully illustrated book is not just the story of Walter and Louise Arensberg but also of New York and Los Angeles and their links to Mexico, Europe, and beyond in the first half of the 20th century. The Arensbergs, famed for their collections of modern art and the art of ancient Mexico, filled their homes with art, people, stories, and games. Using numerous photographs, architectural renderings, and compelling prose, Hollywood Arensberg takes the reader on an intimate tour of the Hollywood home, following a path through the house to delve deeply into the eccentric couple’s lives and collections, recreating the experience of the space and artworks and emphasizing the playfulness with which the Arensbergs imagined themselves as participants in the artworks and creators of a new one, their house as collection, which brought new meaning to each work, ancient or modern. The careful yet lively recounting of individual artworks’ biographies also gives insight into the works, their artists, and their journeys to the Arensbergs’ home, thereby connecting readers with fascinating worlds beyond the house, including those of artist studios, galleries, museums, and international art dealing and smuggling networks.”

Megan E. O’Neil, Assistant Professor of Art History, Emory University, and Faculty Curator of the Art of the Americas, Michael C. Carlos Museum


“A rare and stimulating glimpse of a house and its collections, Hollywood Arensberg provides a deeper understanding of the acquisition and display practices of a resolutely avant-garde couple in the burgeoning art scene of mid century Los Angeles. Nelson, Sherman, and Hoobler bring together aspects of the Arensbergs’ collecting practices previously considered separately, or not at all, such as their crucial and sustained interest in pre-Columbian sculpture. Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, the Arensberg home was filled with intentionally thought-provoking juxtapositions of ancient, historical, and modern art, and further enlivened by the many friends they entertained there, including Marcel Duchamp. The result is a richly textured look into a time and place when an embrace of modernism was a radical position.”

Joanne Pillsbury, The Metropolitan Museum of Art