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Thinking past the museum gallery white box

May 1, 2010 |  8:00 am

Gall Museums, says art historian Carol Duncan, “are rituals of display of power and wealth.”

Although they are often seen as public institutions, most art museums started out as showcases for the collections of wealthy founders and donors. Eli Broad’s push to build his personal museum is only the latest example; J. Paul Getty and Henry E. Huntington were so invested in their museum legacies that they chose to be buried on the grounds of the Getty Villa and the Huntington Gardens, respectively. Although there are no titans of industry interred on the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, its buildings memorialize their names: Ahmanson, Hammer, Broad.

The curator’s job, says Duncan, is to give artworks meanings that transcend the mere display of affluence. In the past, this has meant presenting art objects as paragons of aesthetic achievement, but there has been much discussion in recent years about how museums can make their holdings more accessible and relevant to the general public, not just those with an art history education.

Now in the midst of a major redesign of its galleries for European art, LACMA is rethinking the display of its permanent collection, which spans the 12th through early 20th centuries. For the most part, curator J. Patrice Marandel is sticking to the traditional art historical narrative, organizing works by time period and national school. But he has made some interesting changes, mixing objects from different time periods and places and restyling the walls and lighting in more historically accurate fashion. These seemingly modest efforts reflect larger curatorial trends that emphasize not just aesthetic contemplation but a more complex understanding of the past.

To read the complete story in the Arts & Books section, click here.

-- Sharon Mizota

Photo: A grouping of paintings and sculpture in the Italian Baroque suite of LACMA's newly reinstalled European galleries. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (1)

How about ridding of the academic seperation of the arts to start with? All of our senses, touch, sight, sound, smell and taste should all be activated, and all ways through which we seek to unify mind, body and soul. Creative Arts true concern, not style or technique.

I have shown how to rid of the big box completely, creating a village setting of small structures, intertwined with nature in a human setting of multilayered interaction, not sterilized for monetary appreciation and academic career. Let music and visual arts mingle inside homes, which they were created for, and spiritual communal structures, as god is always present in true art. And then go outside to eat, inhale nature and man made delights, and feel colorful merchandise for everyday living, And those special rituals we humans so need and crave, concerts, church, festivals, which can be built around the greatest work of art in the Western US. The Watts/Rodia Towers.

Click on my name below and find out how to join, and bring our city together, instead of seperating it into gilded ghettos of fools gold, and then the rest of us. Where we look for more than our own self aggrandizement as a way of life. Art is out HERE, we live it everyday, and use it as the highest common denominator of Mankind, not the lowest, the entertainment of indivualism and selfishness it has become. Nuestro Pueblo. Find our humanity.


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