LACMA has painted its Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Resnick Gallery a vibrant rose with undertones of orange—a hue some might call “pomegranate.” This is the room in the Ahmanson Building that houses Georges de la Tour’s The Magdalene with the Smoking Flame, recently returned from loan, along with other paintings and sculptures from 17th-century France.
It’s hard to say whether the new paint is intended to honor the Resnicks—POM Wonderful pomegranate juice magnates with flamboyant decorating tastes—and/or to herald a coloristic make-over of all the European galleries. The other rooms are painted subdued shades of silvery gray. (At left, the Resnicks with Lynda in a pomegranate dress, at the opening of a 2010 exhibition of the couple’s art collection.)
Another theory: The lone pink room is a way of subliminally cuing visitors to discover the de la Tour, usually rated the museum’s greatest Old Master painting.
Though the sensuous color is an unusual choice for a pious century, de la Tour’s scarlet woman looks fine in the new context. The Magdalene’s dress passes for a darker shade of the orange-pink. Next to the de la Tour, paintings by Charles Le Brun and Philippe de Champaigne have rose-hued details you might not have noticed. Champaigne’s Saint Augustine is holding a flaming heart, symbol of his ardent faith, that’s about the size and color of a pomegranate, symbol of reputedly invigorating antioxidants.
The Resnick pink bears some relation, at least in its audacity, to the Pantone Honeysuckle pink that Stephen Prina used in his recent LACMA installation. For Prina the color said something about modernism and postmodernism, good taste and bad taste and beyond taste. Prina let the viewer sort it out, and maybe that’s the point in the Resnick Gallery.