Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre Held an Art Auction on a Private Roller Rink

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Los Angeles’ Frieze week got off to a hot start in a fairly chill environment: a roller rink.

“I’m so glad Jimmy finally found a place to entertain in!” cracked James Corden, regarding the estate of super-producer/entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine. The former Late Late Show host played emcee to a crowd that included a rare fusion of music and art royalty: Ed Ruscha, Brian Grazer, Katie Couric, Joel Madden, Benny Blanco, Bob Geldof and sports agent Rich Paul, aka Adele’s partner.

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All convened at the sprawling Bel Air manse of Iovine for an art auction, co-hosted by Dr. Dre, to raise funds for a revolutionary education program. In 2013, Iovine and Dre (born Andre Young) opened the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy, a novel university program fusing art, tech and business. In 2022, the duo went a step further, opening their own magnet high school in Leimert Park: the Iovine and Young Center. The evening’s purpose was to raise funds to expand their high school concept across the country. (Dre and Iovine, of course, created Beats headphones, later Beats Music — then it sold to Apple for a cool $3 billion.)

For this special event, Iovine and his wife, Brit supermodel Liberty Ross, converted their personal skating rink into a club to accommodate live performances. Who has a personal home skating rink? Turns out, skating is in Ross’s blood: her father, Ian “Flipper” Ross, created Flippers Roller Boogie Palace in West Hollywood in 1979 — a Hollywood sensation then referred to as “Studio 54 on Wheels.” In the past few years, avid skater Ross revived it and has opened offshoots in London and New York.

“They covered the skating rink floor with wall-to-wall carpet,” Sotheby’s vice chairman of private sales Jacqueline Wachter explained of the space’s beige, green and red, wall-to-wall carpeting, coordinated with matching velvet lounge sofas and poofs.

“We worked hard on this,” she confessed of pulling together the auction. ‘You’re gonna laugh, but we actually tried putting it together almost a year ago, shooting for Frieze 2023. Suddenly we stopped and said, ‘Let’s do this right — get the right artists to create original works of art.'”

Troy Carter attends Iovine and Young Center for High School Education Benefit Auction hosted by Sotheby's at Private Residence on February 27, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Troy Carter, in front of Chase Hall’s painting Summer School Swim Team, attends Iovine and Young Center for High School Education benefit auction hosted by Sotheby’s on Feb. 27 in Los Angeles.

The auction was the brainchild of music exec/art collector Josh Abraham and gallerist David Kordansky, working together with Sotheby’s and various galleries to get artists on board. “We were nuts to think these artists could come up with original work in three months,” laughed Kordansky. “But Dre and Jimmy building a public school for the intersection of art, tech and business, that’s unique — a great cause.”

“It’s both a live auction and an online one, in varied time zones,” explained Abraham. “If international collectors wake up, they can bid. … [I] have a feeling a lot of them will.”

The rink was further spruced with the multi-million dollars worth of artwork — 11 lots were displayed prominently on the walls, spotlighting works by artists Reggie Burrows Hodges, Ann Craven, Noah Davis, Derek Fordjour, Sayre Gomez, Jennifer Guidi, Chase Hall, Rashid Johnson, Hilary Pecis, Ruscha and Austyn Weiner.

Passed finger food included: chicken and waffles, quesadillas, mini veggie and lobster rolls — actually passed, which the well-appointed crowd appreciated — in all their finery. Ross even donned a floor-length ruby hued chiffon gown. Bites were prepared by caterer Dave Rubell, who has cooked for the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Wayne Gretzky.

Corden was a surprise presence back in L.A.: “It’s an honor, a privilege — and a favor — to be here,” he joked from the makeshift stage, after having relocated back to London last year. “But as my father once told me, ’Son, there’s no such thing as getting Dr. Dre on your podcast for free.’” Another reason for supporting a revamp of education: “I myself went to a shit school!” said Corden. To warm up bidding, he told prospective bidders, “I want you all to point out the richest person in the room.”

“I see all fingers went toward Jimmy,” Corden laughed. There was definitely no thin ice in this crowd.

Liberty Ross - Jimmy Iovine - Iovine and Young Center for High School Education Benefit Auction
Liberty Ross and Jimmy Iovine attend Iovine and Young Center for High School Education Benefit Auction hosted by Sotheby’s at Private Residence on Feb. 27 in Los Angeles.

Iovine recounted the school’s origin story: “In 2003, Dre and I met with Steve Jobs at Apple. We’d realized we were living in a music bubble — we knew had to get into tech — to bring tech to the womb of the creative community. Kids in school are siloed. It doesn’t encourage big ideas, truly creative ideas. We went to universities with the proposal, which all responded, ‘What are you talking about?’ Then we met USC professor of music Erica Muhl. She got it. She put up the school; Dre and I put up the money. We knew it was about time kids interface with the real world.”

“Kids have always learned what to think but not how to think,” Dre offered, regarding their Iovine and Young Center and the recent plan to bring USC’s program to public high schools across the country. “We want them to think creatively, outside the box. If you change the schools, you change the world.” After USC educators and students regaled the program onstage, Iovine announced: “On every table, there’s gin and juice. I want you all to drink it — feel good — then spend money! But no bidding on the house.”

Sotheby’s auctioneer Kimberly Pirtle, in a chic Christopher John Roberts dress, flew in from New York for the occasion, with the Sotheby’s veteran confessing, “I might be a little rusty after three months of pregnancy leave!” That was hardly the case. Paddles leaped into the air immediately, as did online bids. Original work by Precis, Jones, Burron and Fordjour commanded prices that went deep into six figures. The final hammer value was almost $2.5 million — 30 percent more than the projected high estimate.

To conclude the giddy evening, Grammy winner and Oscar nominee Andra Day — who played Billie Holiday in Lee Daniels The United States vs. Billie Holiday and who’s also a great pal of Iovine’s — cozied up onstage with her two-piece band, crooning faves like “God Bless the Child” as well as Iovine’s personal choice, “Not Today,” from her last album, 2015’s Cheers to the Fall, often grabbing her phone to check the words. “Yes, I do have to Google my own lyrics,” she admitted, kicking off her heels. “And I just can’t sing in high heels.”

After Day mellowed out the moguls, next act Timbaland raised it a few decibels. Well, more than a few. He insisted that everyone in the now loosened up gin-and-juiced crowd “Gotta get up! We gotta leave on a good foot.”  At which point, the swank crowd in the rink-turned-club rose up, dancing in place, bellowing out lyrics in sync, and not scurrying (as is the L.A. norm at almost 9 p.m.) out to the valet.

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