On a warm spring day in 2007, hundreds of people from the business, academic, and art worlds filled the auditorium of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. They were there, summoned from near and far, to pay homage to the memory of the man whose name was, and remains, on that institution’s door. The occasion marked what would have been Norton Simon’s hundredth birthday. It’s interesting to speculate how the centenarian would have reacted, had he been on stage (he died in 1993). Chances are that all the participants would have been taken to task by the notorious contrarian whom everyone in attendance had known. He would have, no doubt, relentlessly challenged, questioned, denied, or justified the bountiful outpouring of accounts of his extraordinary career. Many of these recollections were warmly admiring, almost hagiographic, others quite disparaging—but all, for better or worse, helped to...


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