|Frederick R. Weisman was one of three sons born to Russian parents, William and Mary Weisman. William and Mary had emigrated to the United States as children with their respective families, both settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they would eventually meet.
William, who was thirteen when he made the journey, was known for his tireless energy, work ethic, and perseverance, and he managed to save enough money to go into business for himself at the age of seventeen. Soon becoming an entrepreneurial success and eventually a philanthropist, William instilled the same work and philanthropic values in his children.
Frederick also eventually became a highly successful businessman in Los Angeles, after relocating there with his mother at the age of seven. After purchasing a small produce distributorship, he met Meyer Simon, owner of Val-Vita Cannery, and subsequently married his daughter,
Marcia Simon. At his father-in-law’s urging, Frederick Weisman began working for Val-Vita (which later merged with Hunt Foods) and became its president at the age of thirty-one. Mr. Weisman then went on to establish and develop numerous other corporate enterprises, most notably Mid-Atlantic Toyota in 1970, the first of four Toyota distributorships in the United States.
The Eclectic Eye
Though Frederick Weisman made his fortune in business, it was his art collection that established him as an international figure. He and Marcia Weisman made a formidable team as art collectors, merging their knowledge and passion for the arts with business savvy. What began as a hobby would eventually place them among the world’s top collectors of modern and contemporary art.
Recalling his father’s example, Frederick began to fulfill what he described as his “corporate duty”, utilizing his reputation and fortune to make contributions back to the public. He was particularly renowned for his challenge grants, which he called the “single most effective way of inspiring others to give generously to charitable causes.
In addition to these and other types of grants, the Weisman’s established programs to bring art into non-traditional environments like hospitals and clinics, including the Devereux Foundation, the Washington Free Clinic, the Venice Family Clinic, and Cedars-Sinai Hospital.
In the mid-1970s Marcia and Frederick decided to end their marriage, but they remained close friends and over the years contributed to the growth of each other’s substantial art collections. In the 1980s Frederick married Billie Milam, an established Los Angeles art conservator and museum professional. Frederick and Billie Milam actively acquired art during the ’80s and early ’90s, with the collection emphasizing contemporary art by both established and emerging artists.
The majority of the collection was acquired during those years. In 1994 Frederick passed away, leaving the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation under the direction of Billie Milam Weisman. To this day, the Foundation remains committed to continuing Frederick Weisman’s brilliant vision and cultural mission.