Maria Arena Bell and William Bell Jr.
For Maria Arena Bell and William Bell Jr., collecting art is a shared passion. Before their marriage, Maria, who had studied art history was buying vintage George Hurrell photographs of Hollywood’s Golden Age stars of the 1930s and ’40s, according to Artspace. Now the couple—of soap-opera fame, notably The Young & the Restless—own work by Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, and many other leading figures. Additionally, Maria has championed the work of many Los Angeles–based artists including Alex Israel, Jonas Wood, and Mark Ryden, in addition to commissioning projects by the likes of Dan Colen.
The Bells are noted collectors of Koons. He was their first major foray into contemporary art collecting in the 1990s, or as Maria put it to the Observer in 2014, “Jeff was the logical choice.” Their first acquisition by the artist was one of his 1986 Fisherman Golfer stainless steel decanters from the “Luxury and Degradation” series, and a Plexiglas sculpture of a Hoover vacuum cleaner by Jeff Koons occupies pride of place in their living room. When that work first entered the collection, Maria was “horrified,” she told the Observer. At the time, her friends wouldn’t have known who Koons was and might have seen the work, owned by William, a notorious “neat freak” as “a shrine to cleanliness.”
Maria has also dedicated a good part of her life to philanthropic endeavors in the art world—service which springs from a belief that everyone should have access to the arts. The arts, as she told the Los Angeles Times, “are the things that give you solace, give you happiness and make you who you are. Everybody should have them.”
Maria is a life trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. She served on the board for some seven years, beginning in 2008, and was board co-chair for four-and-a-half years. She was instrumental in hiring Jeffrey Deitch as that institution’s executive director, but stepped down at the end of 2013, months after Deitch’s resignation amid controversy.