Everything is coming up Beverly Johnson: a wonderful run of her reality show “Beverly’s Full House” on OWN, the launch of a branding partnership with Frederick’s of Hollywood for her latest beauty line, and a feature role in the new HBO documentary, About Face: Supermodels Then and Now. Johnson has not only held the everlasting look, she continues to possess a fastidious eye for the ways in which every woman is iconic.
The keen, trend savvy business mind stands out from the exclusive club of supermodels with her ability to recognize and shape the sensibilities of women of diverse ethnic identities across generations. If you were to notice the details of her Desert Springs, California home, you might wonder if some of her magic stems from her love of art, or a gift of being young and cosmopolitan in the ’70s and ’80s.
In the midst of the whirl of projects that command her schedule, Johnson is looking forward to joining the board of the Palm Springs Art Museum this fall. As she considers her journey to leading arts patronage, she looks back to living and befriending in one New York City’s great golden ages.
“At the time, I did not realize that I was part of a group that was going to produce so many great artists. Now I look back on who they were, and they had such a spirit,” Johnson considers as she describes falling into collecting art by virtue of who her friends were. “I was just growing up in the era. We’d go to see Keith Haring or Peter Max, who I remember had his studio on Riverside Drive [Harlem, New York].”
True to the stature of an icon, there are mixed notes of nonchalance and awe in the way Johnson describes a lifestyle where you hang with your friends, they happen to be Haring, Max, Leroy Neiman or Andy Warhol, and you spend the night laughing, dining and painting together. “You didn’t know they were going to be famous. We went to a lot of parties together. And when it was your birthday, they’d give you a painting with a personal note on the back.”
Among her memories was acting as a muse for her then-boyfriend, Berisha, a celebrated artist/sculptor from Albania whose works are among her personal collection. No matter which of her friends she was hanging out with she notes, “They lived really big and really full. They were so passionate. It was always intense. They lived life to the fullest.” In review of Johnson’s life, living life in its complete immensity has to be a point of commonality.
Johnson describes a gift from artist Richard Bernstein as a transformative moment in her appreciation for art. “He was a part of the Andy Warhol factory and a great artist in his own right. He found this picture of me and made this amazing painting. And it turns out it was inspired by a photo of myself I really did not like. But I just loved the painting. It was funny.”
Her home is now an art lover’s paradise—a mix of works by iconic artists and emerging ones she has discovered while attending art fairs in Los Angeles. These days she takes inspiration in developing her art collection from the likes of collectors Helene Galen and Richard Weisman. A lover of artists including Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, Johnson describes her art taste as “classical.”
Connecting the effect of these artists on her perspective, she shares thoughts on their focus, “The way Keith dressed, Andy Warhol’s hair—everything was art. I remember how they made their entire life art.”