By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Step into the Marquez Knolls home of Michael and Dr. Aunene Finger and you enter an enchanted realm. Imagery by some of the 20th century’s greatest artists—Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Bacon, Warhol—adorn the walls. William Kentridge sculptures and colonnades surround the doorways. An atrium echoing a storybook cottage with balconied windows looks like it is straight out of Snow White.
Kentridge has a special place in the Fingers’ hearts. The artist, who hails from their native South Africa, has become a friend. He is very well represented in the Fingers’ home by sketches, sculptures and a clever installation piece that uses a mirror to reflect distorted hand-drawn gargoyle drawings into clear-as-Hell demons.
Their charming, quirky home—three times renovated over the decades (most recently in January) — is no stranger to readers following the Palisadian-Post. The residence recently attracted 300 guests when it was featured during the 2015 Pacific Palisades Woman’s Club Home Tour.
“We had a lot of guards,” Michael says with a chuckle.
Indeed, art runs through the Finger family. Michael’s father, businessman Morris Finger, liked to paint and both of his parents collected art. Aunene’s sister has run the prominent Goodman Gallery in South Africa since the 1960s. Even their daughter-in-law in Telluride, Colorado, paints.
“It really started with this Léger piece given to me by my mother,” Michael said, pointing to the black and white drawing on the wall, of how he got started on their incredible collection, which is eclectic to say the least.
Alongside the Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jim Dine, Ed Ruscha and Francis Bacon images, you’ll find the fruits of their world travels, such as a row of children’s hats from China. Michael deviated against their tour guide’s wishes to buy the hats at a local store.
The Fingers met more than 50 years ago at Ben Gurion Airport while waiting to board a plane from Israel to their native South Africa. They got to know each other on the flight home and both knew they would marry, even though Michael was technically seeing someone else at the time.
“That was the end of the girlfriend and the beginning of my life,” Michael recalled with a smile. “When we got married, we kept moving.”
The Fingers eventually left Johannesburg for Los Angeles and, after originally living in downtown LA and Pasadena and then renting residences on Kagawa and La Cumbre, they found their present house in 1982. After that, “Michael refused to move so instead of moving, I kept re-arranging the furniture,” Aunene said.
Originally a tract home, the Fingers razed most of it, keeping its footprint as Michael went about designing the home with a contractor.
He gives Aunene, a therapist who holds doctorates in psychology and English literature, full credit for the interior decoration of their 5,000 square-foot, five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom home. The residence includes many portals and doorways framed by colonnades, prefaced by chandeliers and adorned by other pieces she has found at antique stores.
The Fingers raised their three sons in the Palisades, sending them to Village School—“a tiny little school in those days,” Michael remembers—Paul Revere Charter Middle School and Palisades Charter High School.
Today, two of his sons work in urgent care and live in New Orleans and Westport, Connecticut. A third son works as a developer and builder in Telluride.
Michael says that he and his wife enjoy living in town because of all the usual reasons why people embrace this community: ocean views, great hiking and a robust Farmer’s Market every Sunday.
“What could be happier than living in the Palisades?”
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