Treasures at Sunnylands
What do you get the man or woman who has everything? The question was not a theoretical one for the U.S. presidents, royal families and Hollywood legends who visited Walter and Leonore Annenberg at Sunnylands. Over the decades, the couple, recognized as two of the 20th century’s greatest philanthropists, were themselves the recipients of countless personal gifts – some lavish, some light-hearted and sentimental – from the world-famous figures they entertained at their home.
Treasures at Sunnylands: Selections from the Gift Collection of Walter & Leonore Annenberg, 46 items reflecting both the generosity and the whimsy of the Annenbergs’ guests, family, and close friends is currently on display.
From a silver cigarette box presented by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, to a singing fish plaque from President George H. W. Bush, gifts in the exhibition are categorized into offerings of presidents and first ladies, royalty, diplomats, business leaders, entertainers, and family. A beaded, safety-pin necklace from then-First Lady Hillary Clinton that became a prized piece of jewelry for Leonore Annenberg is on display, as is the family’s Austin Mini Moke – a small, freewheeling vehicle that a fun-loving Frank Sinatra delivered in 1968.
Other items in the exhibition were given by such notables as entertainers Bob Hope and Kirk Douglas; U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher; royals Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II; and business leaders Randolph Hearst, with wife Veronica, and Justin Dart, with wife Jane.
20th Century Sculpture
In 1976 Walter Annenberg wrote, "Ultimately, Sunnylands will be turned over to the public and I naturally take care in the selection of acquisitions for this long-range responsibility."
As part of this vision, some items from the collection are installed at the Center for public viewing and education. Included are significant works of sculpture dating primarily from the 20th century.
"If it moved me, that was enough. Being moved is what collecting is all about."
An Interactive Gallery and Theater
Throughout Sunnylands Center, visitors will find historical and educational materials about the historic house and the Annenbergs. A large gallery contains six interactive media stations. Here, visitors can explore touch-screen kiosks that each focus on a specific aspect of Sunnylands. Through photos, videos, and interviews guests will learn about midcentury modern architecture, the house's interior design and golf course, the art collections, the Annenbergs and their Sunnylands guests, and sustainability practices. One of the highlights of the gallery is a 3-D film that uses the latest technology and requires no glasses. It explores how the historic estate was built and how it changed over the years.
In the intimate 45-seat theater, one can view A Place Called Sunnylands, an orientation film, that plays regularly. The kiosks and films are an excellent way to become familiar with the Annenbergs and the history of Sunnylands.