History of the Collection

Cedars-Sinai's Collection All Started with a Patient's Recovery Half a Century Ago

When her husband was hospitalized in 1966, Marcia Simon Weisman discovered the healing power of art on Frederick's condition. This unforgettable experience prompted them to donate works of art from their own prized collection, so that art might help others on their road to recovery. 

The collection of more than 4,000 paintings, sculpture, photos, drawings and lithographs was born in a quiet moment of healing.

In 1966, Frederick R. Weisman, a Los Angeles business leader and art lover, slipped into a coma after suffering a head injury. Though he returned to consciousness after several days at Cedars-Sinai, he remained dazed and disoriented. His wife, Marcia Simon Weisman, who was also an influential art collector, grew alarmed as her husband struggled to remember her name.

"As the story goes, Marcia would bring artworks to the hospital and leave them by her husband's bedside so that he would see them when he opened his eyes," says John T. Lange, the current curator of the Cedars-Sinai collection.

One morning, Mr. Weisman was looking at an abstract painting his wife had brought in when he had a breakthrough: He named the artist as Jackson Pollock aloud.

"He could make that connection to the work of art before he could make the connection to identify his wife," Lange says. "There was an obvious relationship between the art and his recovery."

Marcia Simon Weisman sits with pop artist Andy Warhol at his 1977 book signing at Cedars-Sinai.

Jim Caccavo, who recovered at Cedars-Sinai for two weeks after spinal surgery, with the painting "Swimmers" by Salomé.

In 1976, after the expansion of the medical center, the Weismans toured the new facility. Enthusiastic collectors of modern art since their first purchase in the 1950s (Jean Arp's bronze sculpture "Self-Absorbed"), the couple vowed to bring fine art to Cedars-Sinai. "They walked around and saw all of these empty corridors," Lange said. "So, they made a huge push to add art to the medical center."

They began by donating hundreds of pieces from their own holdings. They gave works by pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, abstract expressionists Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Frank Stella, surrealists Max Ernst, Joan Miró and René Magritte, and European modernists Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky.

Marcia Weisman urged everyone she knew in the art community to donate—gallery owners, art buyers, grateful patients and even the artists themselves. "She started this tradition of giving art to the hospital," Lange says.

Today, the medical center's Advisory Council for the Arts, made up of fine-art enthusiasts and art professionals—many of whom knew the Weismans personally—continues the mission. The council reviews every work offered to the medical center, focused on keeping true to the Weismans' vision.

Every piece in the medical center's collection is showcased. Sculptures by Fletcher Benton and Frank Stella are installed in courtyards and walkways, while paintings, photos and lithographs by artists such as David Hockney, Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenburg are on display in the corridors, lobbies and offices.

For patients and their families, the art provides comfort and inspiration in a setting that can be stressful. An encounter with great art can be a meaningful and joyful surprise.

"Art heals—I see it firsthand with patients every time I give them tours," says Lange, recalling a conversation with one such patient. "She told me that she walks through the corridors and looks at the art, and for that bit of time, she's transported. Hearing her talk about how the art works for her reminds me of why I'm here, and why what we're doing with the collection makes sense."

Other Helpful Info
Behind the Scenes

Meet John T. Lange. Not many medical facilities have their own art curator, but with its astonishing collection of contemporary art, Cedars-Sinai does.

Donate Art to Cedars-Sinai

If you own fine art that you believe would make a great addition to the Cedars-Sinai therapeutic-art collection, or if you're interested in finding out more about donating, we would love to hear from you.