For Jeffrey Loria, Whether It Comes to Art or Baseball, It's All About Making Money
Never trust anyone who's made a multi-million dollar fortune in art. With that kind of cash in the bank, you can almost guarantee they love money a hell of a lot more than they love art.
Now that Jeffrey Loria is the most hated man in baseball after lying to everyone in Miami to get a brand new stadium, then dismantling his team one year later, it's worth looking back at his career as a hugely successful art dealer. Considering that he's proved beyond any doubt he cares more about money more than he does about baseball, maybe we should have looked at his art dealing days sooner.
The fact that an art dealer amassed enough money to buy a major league sports team still seems odd. Of course, Loria only came to own the Marlins in the first place thanks to a Bud Selig-assisted Montral screwjob (one that would make the WWE blush).
But his ascension as the slimiest owner in baseball is also illuminated by Loria's art dealings. His work in the art market surprisingly parallels his dealings as an MLB owner.
Locally, perhaps we think of art dealers as Wynwood hipsters who throw cool parties for emerging artists and actually, at least in part, do it for their love of art. Maybe we think of the art dealers who descend on Miami en masse during Art Basel Miami Beach who throw cooler parties for international known emerging artists and actually, at least in part, do it for their love of art.
This is not the kind of art dealer Jeffrey Loria is or ever was.
After majoring in art history at Yale, Loria got his start in the art market by working for Sears. No, not any sort of emerging art scene, but, yes, some department store. He recruited horror actor Vincent Price to help hawk original art through Sears. That endeavor was ultimately unsuccessful, but Loria used his experience to launch his own company, Jeffrey H. Loria & Co. Inc.
Even independently, Loria was not the kind of art dealer who sought out and nurtured young artists. Rather, he trafficked in already established big names.
Does buying and selling big named entities all willy nilly not sound a little bit like how he's managed the Marlins?
"I spent most of my career dealing in masters -- major artists of the 20th century," he told a Yale alumni website in 2003. "They were established artists long before I came along. I did not discover any artists. I dealt as a private dealer for my entire career. I never really wanted to have a gallery or have shows."
Perhaps that explains his approach to reassembling the Marlins during the 2011 off-season: buying big names instead of trying to nurture emerging talent. Loria clearly has no patience for that sort of thing whether it be in art of sport.
Frankly, it's doubtful how much Loria really appreciates art. His oft-cited favorite artists include Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, and Fernand Leger. Taken individual, there's no doubt these are all masters. But lets look at what representative pieces from the artists look like side-by-side:
Are we getting the sense that this is a guy who really is a nuanced and informed lover of all types of art who truly respects these artists on an intellectual level? Or are we getting the sense that this is a guy who just loves loosely figurative paintings and is easily amused by primary colors with the occasional shot of green?
This is an art dealer who, after all, commissioned C-list pop artist Red Grooms to create that hideous butt plug of a homerun sculpture. If that thing isn't enough to illustrate the man has little taste in art, what is?
Because Loria was such a low profile art dealer who specialized in selling to private clients before he emerged to by the MLB's Montreal Expos in 1999, little was written about his company before than.
In that year, The New York Observer wrote that he was "known as a cagey, some say ruthless, negotiator" of an art dealer. In 2003, New York Magazine quoted another New York art dealer as saying, "When we see glowing things about Loria, a lot of us are ready to throw up." The magazine described him as a "secretive, tempestuous 62-year-old." It doesn't paint a picture of a man whose was respected in the art world.
Even quotes he's given about art ring hallow. The fact he decided to paint much of the interior of the Marlins new tax-payer stadium in green because Miro used the shade in his painted rings about as true as deciding to play a B-flat across the stadium's sound system at the start of each inning because he was such a big fan of the Beatles and they used the note in a lot of the songs. It just doesn't make sense.
"Whether you are building an art collection or a baseball team, it is all about making things work, having them fit together, work well together, look good together," he told the Yale alumni website while trying to draw a correlation between art and baseball. "Whether you are looking at pictures on a wall or players on a field, it is always for me about quality and trying to make the highest level of quality."
When you think about that concept applied to either field, it doesn't really register.
Truth is, for someone like Loria, quality really isn't the point. It's all about profit. The sad fact is, he'll end up making an exponentially bigger fortune with his ruthless swindling of taxpayers and baseballs fans than he ever did swapping art for rich patrons.
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