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Larry Ellison Has a Thing for Japanese Puppies

The mega-tycoon and America's Cup champion lends some of his prized Japanese screens to the Asian Art Museum.

Ellison the Predator (Tiger and Dragon, Detail 1): “Larry does like very strong, aggressive images. This might be his favorite painting of the ones he owns.” --Sano
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Tiger and Dragon, Detail 2
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Ellison the Adorable (Two Puppies at Play): “Larry has this love of animals that dominates throughout the collection. The image of puppies playing is something that goes way back in Japanese art.”

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Ellison the Fat Cat (Young Cat Sleeping Under Saxifrage): “This is one of the most beautiful cat paintings I’ve ever seen. Larry is very fond of cats. He has several on his property—one or two of them even have their own little house to sleep in.”

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Ellison the Spiritualist (Standing Shotoku Taishi at Age Two): “Larry has a shrine to Buddha in his garage. I was so impressed with that. This young prince, modeled after a historical figure, is a true masterpiece. He represents a strain of the religion that says that if you simply call on the name of the Buddha, you will be saved. It’s a wonderfully optimistic view of life and death.”

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Ellison the Show-Off vs. Ellison the Skeptic (Raven and Peacock, Detail 1): “Larry’s reaction to this was so interesting. In his mind, the raven is looking back at the peacock and saying, ‘Hah! You’re all dressed up, but you can’t even fly.’”

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Raven and Peacock, Detail 2
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The new Asian Art Museum show devoted to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's collection of Japanese masterpieces is called “In the Moment.” But a better title might be “Psychobiography of a Middle-Aged Zillionaire, Heavy on the Gilt.” Ellison “is a very sympathetic, emotional person,” says Emily Sano, his personal curator since 2008 (and before that, the museum’s director). “He’s known for being hard-driving and aggressive, but the flip side is that he feels things very keenly. What he chooses are pieces that are beautiful but also meaningful to him, that make him experience that deep emotion.”

Browse through some of the highlights of the Ellison collection above for some possible insights into the man himself. "In the Moment" appears at the Asian Art Museum through Sept. 22.

Originally published in the July 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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