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Art and commerce make a perfect match at the mall in Culver City

November 12, 2009 |  3:04 pm

Israel Many will deny it, but the art world is ruled by three simple things: money, money and money. At the end of the day, art is a capitalistic enterprise. So what better place is there to make that connection than at the mall?

In Culver City, shoppers may have noticed a few large-scale installations at the newly reopened Westfield Culver City Shopping Center on Sepulveda Boulevard. The works are part of a new $1.3-million project that involves permanent and temporary artwork intended to bridge Culver City's shrine to consumer capitalism with the local gallery scene.

The mall has dedicated about 5,000 square feet of vertical space to a temporary installation of works by L.A. artist Alex Israel. The installation was coordinated by the gallery LAXART, which partnered with Westfield on the project. Israel's pieces include an outdoor billboard-type piece on the south side of the mall's exterior, as well as an indoor wallpaper-esque installation inside the complex.

Westfield said it chose Israel's proposals because they blur the lines between commerce and art to create a hybrid visual experience. "We also wanted to connect with what's going on in the L.A. and Southern California arts scene," said Larry Green, a senior vice president at Westfield.

Both named “Untitled,” Israel's creations bring together high art and commerce in an energetic way. The interior piece (pictured above) uses commercial logos that are brought together traffic-jam style. The exterior work features classic L.A. iconography and is intended as an homage to artists Billy Al Bengston and Larry Bell. Israel's art will be on view through the spring.

A problematic fusion of art and publicity, or a Warholian commentary on said phenomenon? You be the judge.

The Culver City mall has also installed a permanent exhibition of works by artists Chris Doyle, Jeff Kopp and David Trubridge. Situated throughout the mall, these works were organized by Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in Hollywood.

Westfield said it is funding the entire art project and providing some sponsorship to the participating galleries. It is all part of a $180-million renovation of the Culver City mall, which originally opened in the 1970s. The grand reopening took place in October.

The company says it plans to rotate other temporary works in the future.

It probably goes without saying that Westfield management has the final say on what artwork will be hung on its wall and installed on its grounds. (No Mapplethorpe-esque provocations allowed, one can assume.)

"We approved the art, but we gave artists latitude. We were careful to give them freedom to create," said Nicole Imberger, a vice president at Westfield.

-- David Ng

Photo: Alex Israel poses with his artwork at the Culver City mall. Credit: Westfield