When Tod Volpe arrived in Los Angeles in the spring of 1985 there were literally no real art collectors other than A-list celebrities Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and Barbra Streisand.
The Los Angeles County Museum had not gone through its renovation, and there were no high-end art galleries. In fact, there was only one antique shop on Canon Drive operated by a guy named ‘Mac’ who sold Tiffany Lamps, paintings and bric-a-brac to the Hollywood set. La Brea was just starting to germinate, Melrose Avenue was nothing more than punk rock shops, and the Museum of Contemporary Art had just opened.
Tod pioneered the delivery and placement of master works of art from the east coast to the west, creating a buzz that earned him the title ‘Art Dealer To The Stars’. The iconic fashion bible Vogue nicknamed him ‘The Oracle’.
Through his close relationship with producer Joel Silver (The Matrix, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon), Tod became art advisor to all of the major executives in the film and television business. Bob Daly, Terry Semel, Mike Ovitz, Ron Meyer, Marc Canton, Bruce Birnbaum, Bernie Brillstein, and Illeen Maisel all became friends and clients of Tod, along with Hollywood stars such as Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Laura Dern, Geena Davis, Renny Harlin, Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer, and many more.
Silver, who himself had impeccable taste, recognized Tod’s gift not only for finding rare and unique art objects but also for knowing how to place these items perfectly in one’s environment. Tod utilized his unique talent for forming relationships by matching Silver’s headstrong personality with his own enormous energy, sensitivity and expertise.
Tod’s initial undertaking was the reimagining of Silver’s Frank Lloyd Wright house on Hollywood Boulevard. Over several years Tod transformed a nearly empty house into a showcase for museum-quality art.
Once the Storer House project was completed, Tod moved on to work with Bruckeimer and Simpson, Bob and Nancy Daly, and Terry and Jane Semel. While these entertainment-world heavyweights did not yet have a developed taste or understanding for the applied arts, under Tod’s faithful advisement, they soon learned the value of showcasing paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, Salvador Dali, Maxfield Parrish and Rene Magritte in their mansions.
The apex of this phase of Tod’s work in the art world reached a summit with his relationship with Jack Nicholson. Nicholson, the ultimate collector, knew what he loved and was wise enough to acquire it, but also welcomed and respected Tod’s unsurpassed expertise and advisement. While Jack had truly developed his own individual sense of taste and style, he understood and appreciated the value of having an art “oracle” in his midst, an expert who, in his chosen field of endeavor, had comparable power and experience to himself.
It is no understatement to say that Tod was the single most influential individual in the development of the Los Angeles art scene. Before he arrived, there simply was no scene to speak of. By the time he moved on only eight years later, the terrain had changed completely, with the Hollywood culture fully having grasped Tod’s pioneering wisdom that along with money and power, style and culture make the world go round.