Friday, March 13, 2009

RIP Annenberg

The historic Sunnylands estate of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, which required such privacy for visiting world leaders that it earned restricted air space status, soon will open to the public.

Leonore Annenberg, who died Thursday morning, is expected to be interred in a mausoleum in a private portion of the estate next to her late husband, Walter.

But the estate at Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope drives in Rancho Mirage, home to a prestigious art collection and nine-hole golf course behind pink brick walls, eventually will open for tours three days a week. In the early 1950s, the Annenbergs began building a renowned collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces that was worth an estimated $1 billion when they pledged it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1991. The collection of about 50 works -- including paintings by Cezanne, Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh -- usually hung in their 32,000-square-foot mansion in Rancho Mirage.

Family spokeswoman Kathleen Hall Jamieson (I never got the connection) said the 240-acre estate passes into a family trust with Annenberg's death, but an administrative staff headed by Gaddi Vasquez and former Palm Springs Art Museum executive director Janice Lyle will oversee a staff to run the facility to be called the Annenberg Center.

Mrs. Annenberg is survived by her sister, Mrs. Frank Wolf; two daughters, Diane Deshong of Beverly Hills, Calif., and Elizabeth Kabler of New York; a stepdaughter, Wallis Annenberg of Los Angeles; seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

There will be a private family service. The family asks that individuals make a donation to their favorite charity in lieu of sending flowers.

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