Eight museum exhibitions you won't be seeing in L.A. anytime soon
As the recession continues to inflict damage in the well-appointed halls of the museum world, one of the most noteworthy side effects -- on top of layoffs, ticket hikes and reduced hours of operation -- is the cancellation and postponement of major exhibitions.
In Los Angeles, some of the biggest (and richest) museums have had to take an ax to their upcoming schedules in an effort to save money as their funding and endowments continue to shrink. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art are delaying or eliminating major shows.
"We've definitely had to tighten our budgets as a result of the economy," said Michael Govan, director of LACMA. The museum will remove three upcoming exhibitions from its 2009 and 2010 schedules.
"Maybe part of this is my fault since we've been ramping up so much in the past couple of years and now we have to reconsider what we can do," said Govan. "But museums cancel shows all of the time, only now the recession has given it a heightened importance."
He added that "we're not foreseeing any cuts out of dire circumstances for the immediate future."
LACMA expects its three cancellations -- including a Japanese video and photography exhibition -- to save upward of tens of thousands of dollars, though the museum declined to give exact figures.
MOCA's decision to slash four shows from its schedule is the direct result of revised budgets for fiscal 2009 and 2010. The cancellations, which were announced in May, are in addition to layoffs and a reduction in employee benefits. The museum said it plans to save approximately $4.5 million as a result of these cuts and those made earlier this year.
"These are essential steps forward in returning MOCA to financial health by bringing our staff and program to a sustainable size," said Charles E. Young, the museum's director, in a statement.
Like MOCA, the Getty Museum has announced staff reductions and other budget cuts in response to a shrinking endowment. The Getty Center's upcoming exhibition on Austrian artist Franz Messerschmidt has been indefinitely delayed due to cost considerations.
A spokeswoman for the Getty said that the museum examined its budget for next year and determined that it would be best to push the exhibition into the future in order to develop it into something more comprehensive.
The financial crunch appears to be considerably worse in North American than in Europe, according to the Art Newspaper in London, which recently compiled a non-comprehensive survey of major museum cancellations.
"This is probably because North American museums are much more dependent on private sponsorship and endowments — particularly hit by the recession — while European institutions receive more government funding," the article stated.
Among the biggest art-world cancellations are the world tour of works by Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles and some U.S. appearances of a retrospective of Arshile Gorky. Both shows were scheduled to appear at LACMA and have since been cut. The Gorky exhibition is now set to appear at MOCA.
Exhibitions can be a tricky quantity to measure since many of them are designed to travel to multiple cities around the world. While a museum in one city may decide to cancel a show, another museum could choose to keep the same exhibition on its schedule.
Still, the casualties are mounting. Culture Monster so far counts eight major museum cancellations in L.A. alone.
LACMA: "Heavy Light: Recent Photography and Video from Japan," August 2009
Getty Center: "Franz Messerschmidt," September 2009 (postponed)
MOCA: "Morphosis," 2009-10
LACMA: "Cildo Meireles," November 2009
MOCA: "Form and Photo: Intersections Between Sculpture and Photography," 2009-10
MOCA: "Luisa Lambri: Being There," 2009-10
MOCA: "MOCA Focus: Drew Heitzler," 2009-10
LACMA: "Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective," June 2010
Other museum cancellations (source: the Art Newspaper)
Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, "Jean-Léon Gérôme," February 2010
Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, “Subversion of the Images: Surrealism and Photography," spring 2010
Chicago: Field Museum, "Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia," 2009-10
Denver: Denver Art Museum, "Imperial Mughal Albums From the Chester Beatty Library," July 2009
Honolulu: Contemporary Art Museum, "Japan Fantastic," Dec. 2009
Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, "Cildo Meireles," June 2009
Kansas City: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, "Rafael Lozano-Hemmer," February 2009
London: Tate Britain, "Johann Zoffany," 2010
Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, "Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design," February 2010
New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, "Donald Saff and the Art of Collaboration," September 2010
New York: Metropolitan Museum, "Duncan Phyfe: America’s Legendary Cabinetmaker," Janusary 2010, postponed
Paris: Centre Pompidou, "Indian Contemporary Art," 2010, postponed
Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, "The Kingdom of Aragon," 2010, postponed
Reykjavík: National Gallery of Iceland, "Off the Beaten Track: Violence, Women and Art," September 2009
Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, "Cildo Meireles," March 2010
Vienna: Albertina, "Jörg Immendorff," October 2009
-- David Ng
Photo: Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times