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Posts Tagged ‘LACMA’

Splish Splash

Last night Christopher Hawthorne hosted “A Debate Over the New LACMA” at Occidental College. There was some discussion of the merits (or lack thereof) of William Pereira’s 1965 LACMA complex, which would be razed for Peter Zumthor’s new building. The most memorable analogy was supplied by architect Mark Lee.

“For me Pereira is a bit like the Bobby Darin of architecture. He’ll do something that is really great, like ‘Up a Lazy River’ and ‘Mack the Knife,’ and something really bad like ‘Splish Splash.’ The great ones are like Transamerica Tower and Marineland. LACMA, I have to say, is closest to ‘Splish Splash.’ I think we have to be strategic in terms of what to preserve.”

The debate is archived on the Oxy site.

LACMA Buys a Bernini at TEFAF

The Art Tribune is reporting that LACMA has bought a major Gian Lorenzo Bernini portait bust at TEFAF.

Ursula Schlegel first identified the bust as a Bernini in 1992. It appeared in the Getty’s 2008 Bernini portraiture show. The bust measures 21.5 inches high and is believed to be a late work, dated 1670-75. That would make it roughly contemporary with the hyperreal Bust of Gabriele Fonseca and the (rejected) model for an equestrian statue of Louis XIV.

The Art Tribune’s Didier Rykner praises the bust’s “vivacity of expression and movement.” The sculpture is less finished on the back, implying that it was intended for a niche or tomb monument.

The acquisition promises to be another coup for LACMA’s European art curator J. Patrice Marandel. How many curators in this day and age can brag of adding Bernini, Watteau, David, and Ingres to a collection that didn’t have them? The bust will add star power to an under-appreciated set of Italian baroque sculptures and paintings assembled over the past few decades. As far as I can tell, it will become the only securely attributed Bernini sculpture west of the Kimbell. The Getty’s Boy with a Dragon, bought as a youthful work by G.L. Bernini, is now assigned to his father, Pietro Bernini—presumably in collaboration with his teen-age genius son.

It has been speculated that the LACMA bust is a posthumous portrait of Pietro Bernini. There is no consensus about the sitter, though, and for now it’s being called Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman.

UPDATE. The Los Angeles Times says the bust is a gift of the Ahmanson Foundation, in honor of the museum’s 50th anniversary.

LACMA Is #4, on Instagram

LACMA is  the 4th-most Instagrammed museum in the world. Michael Govan has lately adopted this as a talking point, crediting the public artworks Urban Light and Levitated Mass for the ranking. The Instagram list, based on the most geotagged locations for the photo-sharing app’s images in 2014, runs:

1. Louvre
2. Museum of Modern Art
3. Metropolitan Museum
4. LACMA
5. Hermitage
6. Centre Pompidou
7. British Museum
8. Victoria & Albert Museum
9. Tate Modern
10. Art Institute of Chicago

Most of these institutions have big public artworks or architectural icons, like Pei’s Louvre Pyramid. The current LACMA campus may be a little deficient in Instagram-worthy architecture, but its public artworks result in hundreds of posts each month. Urban Light draws crowds who don’t necessarily know who Chris Burden is but understand it well enough, as a free public stage for enacting dramas of their own devising. Photos of Levitated Mass, on the other hand, tend toward the ridiculous. A large proportion of #levitatedmass shots are goofy images of people holding up the boulder. It’s your call whether that’s a travesty of Heizer’s austere intentions or whether the vernacular photos complete the piece.

In a recent panel of museum leaders at the Music Center, Govan argued that museums’ “digital strategy” need not be limited to apps and websites.  ”When I first came to LACMA… a trustee raised their hand and said, ‘So why then are you spending millions of dollars planting street lamps and trees and moving 350 ton rocks when you can be on digital media?’ I said, ‘Well, you have to take your Facebook picture from somewhere.’”

Larry Sultan’s Mom Is a Meme

Larry Sultan’s My Mother Posing for Me (1984), in the artist’s LACMA retrospective, has caught the eye of Twitter wit Uncle Dynamite (@UncleDynamite).



SEE ALSO Joseph Ducreux, Master of the Internet Meme

A Renaissance Odd Couple Remains a Mystery

LACMA has reunited a Paolo Veronese painting cycle in “Four Allegories by Veronese: A Rediscovery and a Reunion.” The museum bought two of paintings in 1974 as a gift of the Ahmanson Foundation. They were always an odd couple: a river god-looking guy in classical dress and a younger, bearded man in Renaissance drapery. It was known that the two were part of a series of four, as copies of whole cycle exist. Recently the two other Veronese originals have been identified in Turin. The four paintings were reunited in two recent Italian exhibitions and are now being shown in the U.S. for the first time.

The Turin paintings are a female figure representing Sculpture and a a turbaned male clutching an armillary sphere. The Turin man fits in easily with the LACMA paintings (“Dudes and Their Navigation Instruments”). It’s harder to figure how Sculpture fit into the scheme.

W. R. Rearick identified the three male figures as as the Greco-Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy (LACMA), Islamic philosopher-scientist Averroës (LACMA), and Zoroaster (Turin), based on attributes in woodcut illustrations to a 1556 edition of Vitruvius. With its colors and balletic pose, Averroës is the most engaging of the set, but it’s the least historically accurate. The philosopher, who lived in Spain and Morocco, is usually depicted with a beard and turban. His most famous imaginary portrait is in Raphael’s School of Athens (with turban but without beard). The bare head and mannerist costume of LACMA’s Averroës is a departure. In fact, the Turin man might pass as a more conventional Averroës. (Left to right: Raphael’s Averroës, LACMA’s Veronese Averroës, and Veronese’s Zoroaster.)

But the identification of the Turin man as Zoroaster has to be right. He’s shown holding an armillary sphere, a kind of celestial globe, and stands next to a terrestrial globe. Those are Zoroaster’s attributes, as seen in The School of Athens (where the sage appears close to Raphael’s self-portrait).

It remains uncertain who commissioned the cycle or why. A gallery text mentions the theory that the three sages were intended for the Marciana Library, Venice, but were ultimately rejected as unsuited to Jacopo Sansovino’s architecture. Veronese might have added a fourth painting—the outlier Sculpture—to make a set more appealing to another patron.

(Below, an Italian armillary sphere, too fancy to have gotten much use, c. 1600.)

Antonio Mancini, the Last Realist

LACMA has put on view a work by the artist that John Singer Sargent considered “the greatest living painter.” That wasn’t Cézanne, nor even John Singer Sargent. It was Antonio Mancini (1852-1930). The painting at LACMA, Dolce melodia (“Sweet Melody”, 1900), was auctioned at Christies last May and is on loan from an unidentified private collection. It is unusual in subject, paint handling, and format (6.5 feet wide by 20 inches high).

It shows a nude boy reclining on a table or mantle as an elderly violinist plays. There’s a hint of Degas in the violinist’s cropping. Mancini met Degas and Manet in 1870s Paris, and his early, realist works of starving waifs were considered akin the better-known Parisians’ ballerinas and beggars. For later works such as this, Mancini used a self-invented variant of Dürer’s perspective machine. He viewed his subjects though a frame with strings stretched in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal directions. Mancini then painted onto a similar string framework pressed flat against his canvas. The strings left a grid pattern in the sculptural paint surface, proof of the artist’s devotion to absolute realism in paintings that verge on illegibility.

“The Clock” to Run Overtime

LACMA is planning to show Christian Marclay’s The Clock for two months this summer. The world’s most accessible conceptual video has mostly been shown for its 24-hour running length only. But the Museum of Modern Art had The Clock on display for a month in Dec. 2012 to Jan. 2013. At LACMA The Clock will be on view during regular museum hours in the Art of Americas Building, July 5 to Sept. 7, 2015. Additional screenings will run the full 24 hours.

Islam Meets Neon

“Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East” surveys LACMA’s collection of contemporary Islamic art, said to be the largest in an American museum. The installation starts with two neon pieces, unrelated yet complementary. Iranian/Parisian artist Arash Hanei’s Too Khali [Void] (2011, above) makes concrete the word for nothing. Saudi artist Nasser Al-Salem’s God is Alive, He Shall Not Die (blue), 2012, is a mirrored box multiplying the name of God to infinity.

The text-based art of the West almost never celebrates the beauty of the Roman alphabet. In the 1960s John Baldessari hired So. Cal. sign painters to achieve typographic banality. The pure beauty of Arabic script remains central to many of the works being produced in the Islamic world.

Groundhog Day

“Los Angeles is knocking hard on the door of the elite club of art-world cities.”

The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 2, 2015

“The Broad, sharing the Grand Avenue block with the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Frank Gehry’s shimmering Walt Disney Concert Hall, is not just a $140 million building. It’s at the core of a cultural boom… Long the center of the movie industry, the region is now becoming a magnet for artists, dancers, musicians and a murderer’s row of museum leaders.”

The Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2014

“We used to always be the wild stepchild out in the desert. Now, we’re being adopted.”

Mark Bradford in the 2014 Post article

“It takes time for these things to evolve. And now we’re there.”

Eli Broad in the Post

“Of course, its abundant light and space have always drawn a certain kind of artist—members of the Light and Space movement, for instance… But now… it seems that everyone, major figures and young guns alike, wants to call L.A. home.”

The New York Times, Aug 19, 2014

“[Mat] Gleason sees L.A. finally coming into its own as a place for world-class collectors to buy art.”

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Aug. 8, 2014

“Cultural leaders in downtown expressed optimism about the role [the Broad] will play in revitalizing the area. Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art… said the Broad will be ‘transformative’…”

Los Angeles Times, Jan. 8. 2013

“No one is suggesting that Los Angeles is about to supplant New York as an art capital…”

The New York Times, Oct. 12, 2011

“There is no question that Los Angeles has become the contemporary-art capital of the world.”

—Eli Broad, Dec. 6, 2010, in The New Yorker

“…pomegranate-juice magnates, billionaire museum builders and celebrity-packed boards are turning the city into a world-class art center”

The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 2010

“Los Angeles, a city of suburbs in search of a center… came one step closer to finding one.… Whether a single building, however grandiose [Disney Hall], can transform downtown Los Angeles is an open question.”

The New York Times, Oct. 20, 2003

“The Getty Center should make Angelenos in general feel a little better, in part by making Los Angeles seem more like a real city.… obviously, the Getty Center will enable culturally ambitious citizens to weather the Woody Allen jokes.”

The New Yorker, Sept. 29, 1997

“Q. What’s the difference between Los Angeles and a bowl of yogurt? A. Yogurt has a live culture. Time to pension off that oldie…”

Robert Hughes, Jan. 12, 1987, in Time magazine

“The City of Angels used to be a place where culture feared to tread. But today the traffic slowing down to neck-crane along Wilshire Boulevard is not looking for stars but admiring the shimmering complex of pavilions [LACMA] surrounded by a moatlike reflecting pool of vastly more substance and value than was ever to be seen in a DeMille superset.”

Time magazine, April 2, 1965

(Above: A school group at the early LACMA, viewing Norbert Kricke’s Space Sculpture. Top of post: Jordan Wolfson’s Female Figure.)

LACMA Reveals Resnick, Nathanson Gifts

LACMA has announced major gifts of art from the Resnicks and Nathansons, in honor of the museum’s 50th anniversary. Jane and Marc Nathanson are promising eight blue-chip contemporary works (above right, Warhol’s Double Marilyn, 1962). Lynda and Stewart Resnick will be giving four European pieces, including the Hans Memling Christ Blessing that was a latecomer to the Huntington’s 2013 show of Renaissance portraits. These gifts, along with many others, will be on view in LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion April 26 to Sept. 7.

The Nathanson gifts focus on Pop art and its legacy. They include James Rosenquist’s Portrait of the Scull Family (1962, above), George Segal’s Laundromat (1967-67, below) and Roy Lichtenstein’s Interior with Three Hanging Lamps (1991); plus works by Frank Stella, Gilbert & George, Julian Schnabel, and Damien Hirst. The Rosenquist, Schnabel, and Hirst are the first major works by the artists in the LACMA collection.

The Resnicks are giving Boucher’s Leda and the Swan and Ingres’s The Virgin with the Host. Boucher is not much to contemporary taste, and you may think that L.A. already has plenty. LACMA alone has six Boucher paintings. None are like this one, though. LACMA’s Bouchers are split between oil sketches and irregularly shaped over-doors meant to be viewed from a distance. Leda and the Swan is a finished cabinet painting intended to be inspected closely. The palette is darker and moodier than usual, and the paint handling is worthy of Chardin. If Boucher’s art is treacle, this is its richest, most caramelized reduction.

Until last year, LACMA had no Ingres at all; with the Resnick gift it will have two. The Virgin with the Host, an homage to Raphael, was originally commissioned by czar-to-be Alexander II. Ingres thought it so successful that he regretted it going to Russia, which he regarded as Art Siberia. Ingres ended up making several variations for other patrons (much as he did for his Odalisque). A related painting, without the green curtains and with saints instead of putti, is in the Metropolitan Museum.

Last December I commented on a report that Michael Govan, given his pick of the Resnicks’ sculpture collection, chose “the single-most important thing we have, which is what he should have done.” I speculated that that would be Houdon’s marble  of The Kiss (wrong!) It was a two-foot bronze of Giambologna’s Flying Mercury, his most famous image and also featured in LACMA’s 2010 show of the Resnick collection, “Eye for the Sensual.” My first thought was that the Resnicks own Teleflora, and its competitor, FTD, uses an amusingly bastardized version of Flying Mercury as its logo. I wondered whether they might have bought a Flying Mercury as a joke. Copies of Flying Mercury are legion. They were produced by Giambologna, his studio, and some very talented followers. It is hard for the greatest connoisseurs to tell what’s what—Henry Clay Frick was fooled. “Eye for the Sensual” was a single-collection show, an exercise intended to encourage the sort of donations that have just been announced. In such situations, you have to wonder whether curators tactfully avoid challenging a collector’s cherished attributions. Connoisseurship always offers the cover of ambiguity.

But if Govan is convinced that this is an authentic Giambologna, then that’s prima facie evidence that current scholarship says it is. Flying Mercury is poised to become the museum’s star Renaissance sculpture.