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First Look: Skimming the summer art (and society) magazines

July 8, 2010 |  8:30 am

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On the cover of its August issue, above the puffed bangs of Angelina Jolie, Vanity Fair promises "Dennis Hopper's last interview." 

More accurately, the tagline should read: VF contributor Bob Colacello takes a few semicoherent things that Hopper said when he was ill, a month before his death, as bookends for sundry observations about the L.A. art world that have nothing to do with Hopper.

Mostly, Colacello serves up gossip on Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan's relationship with museum patron Eli Broad, comparing their situation to a divorce in which Govan kept the house (the Broad Contemporary Art Museum) and Broad, the kids (or art). The writer also says he was "told on good authority that David Geffen had secretly promised $30 million" to LACMA to finance its proposed merger with the Museum of Contemporary Art. Also memorable: LACMA trustee Lynda Resnick describing Broad as a legacy-builder by recasting a quote from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." 

The Resnicks did not make the Artnews list of the world's top 200 collectors, and I'm not sure why, except that these kinds of lists are never a science. The magazine has released this year's list with the rather diplomatic news flash that Los Angeles and San Francisco "each count six names" this year. 

Not to fuel what painter Sandow Birk once depicted as the "Great War of the Californias," but my count for L.A. entries is eight: Eli and Edythe Broad; Susan and Larry Marx; Dean Valentine; Maria and William Bell; Jr.; Eugenio Lopez; Peter Norton; Michael Ovitz; and Eric Smidt. (Yes, I count Beverly Hills.) Benedikt Taschen, who lives in L.A. as well as Cologne, Germany, would bring it up to nine.

Then again, San Francisco deserves one more entry: Andy Pilara, who has built a vast photo collection rich with Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon and some surprises too. He has arguably built his collection so quickly that the press hasn't quite caught up with him.

Speaking of Arbus, portfolios of her images in magazines are a rare event, since her estate is notoriously careful with reproduction rights. But the summer issue of Aperture has a selection of nine images with two or three sure to worm their way into your heart, including a teenager wielding a baseball bat in an empty Manhattan street who seems to be threatening everybody, nobody or the camera.

This selection comes from the sculptor Bob Gober, who is getting glowing reviews for curating the Charles Burchfield show that debuted at the Hammer and is now at the Whitney, and who made a larger grouping earlier this year for the Fraenkel Gallery of Arbus' "unknown or almost-known photographs."

Lastly, if you're tired of the one-sidedness of some hot-button art-world debates, Peter Plagens is the man -- or men -- for you. In the June/July Art in America, he cheekily takes both sides of some current issues, such as cultural patrimony and single-collector museum shows, by playing out the ethical watch-dog role ("Good Peter") and then assuming the realpolitik voice of someone with an "embossed preview invitation" in his pocket ("Bad Peter"). 

My favorite exchange focuses on the Barnes Foundation controversy, described by Good Peter as Pennsylvania politicians "leveraging the Barnes collection out of its unique and wonderful home in Merion."  Plagens' rebuttal to his own argument? He's all for the move, if it means he "can look at a Cézanne from the Barnes collection under lighting that doesn't make it seem like it's inside Andres Serrano's jar of urine."

-- Jori Finkel
twitter.com/jorifinkel

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