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Jan Baum


1928 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Jan Baum Obituary
April 15, 1928 - December 25, 2017 Jan was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Leo and Anna Tobin. She was the youngest of three children. Her father was proprietor of the leading food specialty store in the city. Her sister Lillian was a school teacher and her brother Norman was a highly regarded and successful real estate broker. Early in life when she was five she showed the grit, drive and quiet determination that marked whatever she later did. In a race with older playmates, they on bicycles and she on a tricycle, she finished a distant last. She said to herself that from then on she would be first. And she was--in her gentle and quiet way. She graduated from high school at 15 the valedictorian of her class. She chose the University of Wisconsin over the host of other schools to which she had been accepted. She went to the UofW as a premed, but after taking her first class in art history, her passion became art. At Wisconsin she was both a Badger Beauty and a Phi Beta Kappa. In her freshman year when she was only 16 she met her husband-to-be whom she felt was much too serious, and she tried hard to discourage him. But despite dating many swains and suitors she eventually returned to him. They were married in 1951 five years after they first met in what they jokingly called their "whirlwind romance". After graduation from Wisconsin in 1950 she returned to the New York area, securing a position with a writer who was doing a book on famous duels. Jan did research for him which necessitated visits to Alexander Hamilton's home for research on the Burr-Hamilton duel. She delved into the history of the man who inspired Rostand's famous Cyrano de Bergerac. She also was a student of the legendary Martha Graham who nicknamed her "Legs". After their marriage Jan and Richard lived in Chicago while Richard finished his final year of medical school at the University of Chicago. Jan worked for the head of Illinois Institute of Technology. While there, they frequently spent weekends at Richard's family home in Milwaukee where Jan cemented the warm relationship with his parents, particularly with his mother with whom she was lovingly close for the next 41 years. An internship at Los Angeles County Hospital brought them to LA "just for a year", but the lure of LA made those plans to return eastward passe. In LA the young couple raised 3 children--Rick, Halli and Betsy. When all three children were in school, Jan became a highly regarded docent at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, specializing in contemporary art. She was appointed to the selections committee of the Museum's Art Rental Gallery where she visited three or four artist's studios twice a week. This exposure to many of LA's artists fell right into later plans to open, along with a dear friend, the Baum-Silverman Gallery. Iris would be in charge of tribal art--African and Indonesian--and Jan in contemporary art. But when Iris died, Jan, who by then had learned much about tribal art, carried on both art fields, now as the Jan Baum Gallery. In the early '80's Jan moved her gallery to La Brea Avenue, the first gallery in what was to become a gallery destination. In the gallery Jan found the satisfaction of a lifetime. She was never too busy to talk to anyone, be they a celebrity or someone who just happened to walk in off the street. Artists were always encouraged. Frequently, if she felt their art did not fit into her gallery and the artist was talented, she would refer them to another gallery where their art would be a better fit. She could talk about art in a scholarly yet simple and understandable way. She read boundlessly, made infinite trips to other galleries and to museums, getting to know gallerists and curators around the world. She became close friends with her artists and collectors. She introduced to the art world such luminaries as Alison Saar and Darren Waterston among many others. She retired from being a gallerist in 2008, leaving behind a reputation of having been an exceptional and admired art dealer. Her retirement was marked by an article in the LA Times. Channel 2 once called her "the queen of La Brea". About 20 years ago her face was on banners all over the city as one of LA's creative people. On her retirement the Getty Museum asked for her archives to add to that museum's research collection. Even today people refer to her as "a legend". She succumbed to cerebral edema, having lived a fulfilling life with a loving, adoring family and a multitude of friends who will miss her. She was a loving and caring mother, grandmother and greatgrandmother. She leaves her husband Richard and her 3 children Rick Baum, Halli Heston and husband Rich, and Betsy Heston and husband Lon, five grandchildren--Rebecca Lapating and Nick, Benjamin Heston and Lacey, Jonathon Heston and Emily, Chris and Nick Heston and two greatgrandchildren--Eli Heston and Sydney Lapating. Throughout their over 70 year relationship Richard supported Jan to the fullest, taking great pride in her accomplishments and the rare person she was. They were inveterate collectors of antiques, paintings and African and Indonesian art. They were a unique couple in so many ways. Jan will be dearly missed and long remembered. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to: Africa Fund Ethnic Arts Council c/o Craig Diamond, Treasurer 17468 Candia Street Granada Hills, CA 91344. Funeral services are to be held Sunday December 31st at 12:30 PM at Mount Sinai Memorial Park 5950 Forest Lawn Drive. A memorial service will be held on Sunday March 18th at Jan and Richard's home.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Dec. 30 to Dec. 31, 2017
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