Skier/Businessman/Philanthropist: The late John Bloomberg leaves art legacy to SDMA

In 2014, when 79-year-old John Bloomberg was given an Honorary Alumnus Award by the University of Utah, he was asked, “Do you consider yourself a Wall Street guy who happens to like skiing or a skier that happened to work on Wall Street?” he quickly answered: “A skier that happened to work on Wall Street!”

Bloomberg, a champion ski racer, art collector and philanthropist who, with his wife, Toni, maintained residences in Manhattan, Park City and La Jolla, died at their La Jolla home on Feb. 22 after a year-and-a-half struggle with glioblastoma, a highly malignant form of brain cancer. Until then, his life had been a series of adventures in business, sports, travel and art.

One of his last wishes was to leave most of their La Jolla art collection to San Diego Museum of Art.

Born in New Rochelle, New York, Bloomberg majored in chemistry at Amherst, received an MBA from Harvard, and went on to Wall Street, where his chemistry background boosted his fortunes as a pharmaceutical and chemical research analyst. He became a partner at Bear Sterns and began founding small companies on his own.

Then in 1968, on a blind date, he met Toni. “I was at the New York School of Design and he was on Wall Street,” she said. “We didn’t hit it off right away; I thought he was kind of bossy. But afterward, he called and said, ‘I think we should give this another try, I really think we could get along.’ And he was right. We were married six months later, and we led a great life together for 48 years.”

Bloomberg retired at 45, ready to devote himself to things other than work. In Utah, he fell in love with ski racing, though every time he entered a race, he came in last. Undaunted, he kept at it and two decades later, he won the U.S. Masters Championship (twice), joined the Board of Directors of the U.S Ski and Snowboard Association, and finally, at 78, proudly accepted the gold medal for senior racers at the International Ski Federation World Championship in Park City.

Art became another of his passions. He and his wife amassed an impressive collection of impressionist and American Art, and he served on the State of Utah Arts Advisory Board and the Getty Museum Paintings Conservation Council.

His life was not always smooth skiing. In the 1990s, he suddenly started losing his vision. In the process of researching solutions, he found Dr. Randall Olson, an ophthalmologist at the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center whose surgical intervention managed to save his sight. Deeply grateful, the Bloombergs made significant donations to the Moran Center, enabling the creation of the John and Toni Bloomberg Ophthalmology Library.

They also gave the Center many of the paintings by early Utah artists that they had been collecting over the years, and Bloomberg joined the Board of Trustees of Research to Prevent Blindness, an organization that supports the work of vision scientists nationwide.

Meanwhile, the couple enjoyed their time in San Diego. Toni became a trustee of the San Diego Museum of Art and they filled their La Jolla hilltop home with impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.

“We love all our homes, but La Jolla has always been a special place for us,” Toni said. “We were in New York for John’s 80th birthday, and had a fabulous dinner party at La Grenouille. Then he was diagnosed with glioblastoma. Last year, we celebrated his 81st birthday at home here, around the table with a few good friends.”

Among the art works the Bloombergs will donate to the SDMA are Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Pissarro, Bonnard, Monet and others. “Their gift will be transformational for us,” said Roxana Velasquez, the museum’s executive director. “John was a serious art-lover who really studied the period and knew all about the artists he collected. His enthusiasm was infectious, and his collection will greatly enhance our holdings of late 19th and early 20th century art.”

In his wife’s words, “John was the smartest, most interesting person I ever met, and the most fun companion. He was also a philanthropist who truly believed in giving back. As a friend of ours wrote, ‘He left a legacy of philanthropy, great friendship and sporting prowess behind.’ ”

Bloomberg retired at 45, ready to devote himself to things other than work. In Utah, he fell in love with ski racing, though every time he entered a race, he came in last. Undaunted, he kept at it and two decades later, he won the U.S. Masters Championship (twice), joined the Board of Directors of the U.S Ski and Snowboard Association, and finally, at 78, proudly accepted the gold medal for senior racers at the International Ski Federation World Championship in Park City.

Art became another of his passions. He and his wife amassed an impressive collection of impressionist and American Art, and he served on the State of Utah Arts Advisory Board and the Getty Museum Paintings Conservation Council.

His life was not always smooth skiing. In the 1990s, he suddenly started losing his vision. In the process of researching solutions, he found Dr. Randall Olson, an ophthalmologist at the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center whose surgical intervention managed to save his sight. Deeply grateful, the Bloombergs made significant donations to the Moran Center, enabling the creation of the John and Toni Bloomberg Ophthalmology Library.

They also gave the Center many of the paintings by early Utah artists that they had been collecting over the years, and Bloomberg joined the Board of Trustees of Research to Prevent Blindness, an organization that supports the work of vision scientists nationwide.

Meanwhile, the couple enjoyed their time in San Diego. Toni became a trustee of the San Diego Museum of Art and they filled their La Jolla hilltop home with impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.

“We love all our homes, but La Jolla has always been a special place for us,” Toni said. “We were in New York for John’s 80th birthday, and had a fabulous dinner party at La Grenouille. Then he was diagnosed with glioblastoma. Last year, we celebrated his 81st birthday at home here, around the table with a few good friends.”

Among the art works the Bloombergs will donate to the SDMA are Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Pissarro, Bonnard, Monet and others. “Their gift will be transformational for us,” said Roxana Velasquez, the museum’s executive director. “John was a serious art-lover who really studied the period and knew all about the artists he collected. His enthusiasm was infectious, and his collection will greatly enhance our holdings of late 19th and early 20th century art.”

In his wife’s words, “John was the smartest, most interesting person I ever met, and the most fun companion. He was also a philanthropist who truly believed in giving back. As a friend of ours wrote, ‘He left a legacy of philanthropy, great friendship and sporting prowess behind.’ ”

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