Category: Autry National Center

New board chair of the Autry Museum is the first Native American in that role

December 10, 2010 |  4:45 pm

AutryNatlCtrMarshallMcKayGiven that cowboy star Gene Autry was its co-founder and namesake, the Autry National Center of the American West has struggled to ride out from under a stereotypical image as the "cowboy museum" in Griffith Park. Its mission is to present a sweeping and comprehensive program of research and exhibitions about all aspects of Western art, culture and history.

In that light, the announcement this week that Marshall McKay will chair the Autry's board of trustees for the coming two years is significant: he's the first Native American to hold the top board post in the museum’s 22-year history.

“It’s a double honor to have this bestowed on me,” said McKay, 58, who is chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation tribe in Brooks, Calif. “To come into this position is outstanding for a Native American... One of my goals as chairman is to bring those perceptions along, so it’s not just a 'cowboy museum,’ but a museum of the American West.”

Jackie Autry, widow of Gene and by far the Autry's leading benefactor, said Friday that along with the symbolic importance of McKay's chairmanship is the practical benefit of his expertise in Native American art and culture, and the administrative and leadership experience he brings to the table.

He'll lead the Autry's board at a critical moment of expansion: the museum is in the early stages of a $75 million renovation project .

You can find the full story here.

-- Mike Boehm

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Photo: Marshall McKay. Credit: Autry National Center.

A new sculpture for Pershing Square?

October 25, 2010 |  3:30 pm

Pershing Square Genaro Molina Los Angeles Times Broadway and 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles is officially known as Ezat Delijani Square, in honor of the Beverly Hills real estate developer who ended up on the front page of Monday's Times over the issue of a questionable criminal investigation launched by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca — outside his agency's jurisdiction — on behalf of Delijani, a well-connected supporter. Both men have denied anything untoward in the rather unusual investigation.

Meanwhile, last month the L.A. City Council moved forward on a proposal by Delijani to erect a Pershing Square sculpture of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire some 2,600 years ago, two blocks away from from the donor's eponymous intersection. According to a report in, Delijani would pay for the design, fabrication, installation and maintenance of the statue. No artist was identified for the project.

Pershing Square is home to a few memorial sculptures, the most artistically notable being Arnold Foerster's life-size 1932 bronze of composer Ludwig van Beethoven. (The city's Philharmonic Auditorium, long since razed, was across the street.) About 2,500 people attended the dedication of the composer's likeness that year, which came just five days after Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros shocked the city's elite at the unveiling of his controversial Olvera Street mural "America Tropical."

Today, as "America Tropical" inches toward restoration to public view, the Foerster sculpture stands largely forgotten. As always, the significance of the artist rather than the subject plays the larger role in civic memory. Approvals for a Cyrus the Great statue at the site are pending with the Parks and Recreation Departmen and the Municipal Arts Commission.

— Christopher Knight

Photo: Pershing Square. Credit: Genaro Molina /Los Angeles Times.


Art review: 'Siqueiros: Landscape Painter' at Museum of Latin American Art and 'Siqueiros in L.A.: Censorship Defied' at Autry National Center

October 12, 2010 |  4:30 pm

Siqueiros 008

In all of 20th-century art there may be no more tangled a tale, however well-known the individual artists are, than the Mexican mural movement. Partly that's because the painters hitched their aesthetic wagons to a revolutionary era, which is by definition chaotic.

In 1910, Mexico reignited the political powder keg that first exploded a century before with the war of independence from Spanish colonial authority. Now revolution against the Mexican establishment meant the struggles were internalized. Fighting was in-fighting, as in any civil war.

Two current museum exhibitions shed welcome -- and sometimes unexpected -- light onto the work of David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), perhaps the most volatile of Los Tres Grandes, muralism's "three great ones." At times Siqueiros fought with fellow muralist Jose Clemente Orozco, and they both fought with Diego Rivera. In 1940, Siqueiros famously participated in a plot to assassinate Leon Trotsky, the anti-Stalinist Communist leader exiled in Mexico City.

In and out of prison and sometimes under house arrest for political agitation, Siqueiros too had experienced exile -- including in Los Angeles in 1932, where he produced three important murals. The third one got him effectively deported, his visa unrenewed.

Given all that -- and much, much more -- it might be some surprise to come upon the exhibition "Siqueiros Paisajista/Siqueiros: Landscape Painter," at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. The pastoral, bucolic associations of landscape painting hardly seem to fit, especially with an artist whose first claim to fame was a fierce 1922 manifesto denouncing easel-painting as a bourgeois distraction from the revolutionary aims embodied by the mural movement. This show is almost entirely composed of easel paintings, plus drawings and prints.

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Mark your calendars: Museum Day is Sept. 25

September 14, 2010 |  9:00 am


Attention all museum patrons whose love affairs with the arts may have been a bit neglected in the recent recessionary times: Sept. 25 is Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day.

What does this sixth annual event mean? Well, for that Saturday, 1,400 of the nation's museums will offer a chance to wander their halls free of charge. For nearby Angelenos, that list includes the Autry National Center (usual fee is $9 for adults who aren't members) and the Hammer Museum (regular admission is $7) for starters. Here's a list of all California museums participating in the event (The Times' Travel blog has also named some choice in-state destinations from that list).

Have you taken advantage of this event before? What do you think of this endeavor? Share in the comments section.

-- Whitney Friedlander

Photo: David Alfaro Siqueiros' Marcha Revolucionaria (Revolutionary March or Protest) from 1935, which is part of the "Siqueiros in Los Angeles: Censorship Defied" exhibit at the Autry from Sept. 25 to Jan. 9, 2011. Credit: Autry National Center. Read more about local events celebrating Siqueiros' artwork.

Autry National Center names Daniel M. Finley as CEO [updated]

August 13, 2010 |  3:26 pm


The Autry National Center -- which runs the Museum of the American West and the Southwest Museum of the American Indian -- said Friday that it has named Daniel M. Finley as its new president and chief executive officer. Finley will succeed John Gray, who led the Autry for close to 11 years before announcing his retirement this year.

Finley served for close to five years as the head of the Milwaukee Public Museum, an institution devoted to natural history and anthropology. His tenure at the museum was largely devoted to rescuing the institution from a serious financial hole created by declining donations and budget deficits.

Finley In 2005, the Milwaukee Public Museum was in the midst of a serious financial meltdown that threatened its very survival. But the institution has since seen significant fiscal improvements, though furloughs were still being enacted as recently as 2009.

Before joining the Milwaukee Public Museum, Finley served as a county executive at Waukesha County, Wisconsin, from 1991 to 2005.

Finley is set to start his new job on Aug. 31. The Autry said it had conducted a national search by the recruitment firm of Korn/Ferry International. Finley will head an organization with a $14-million annual operating budget and an endowment of approximately $100 million.

Recently, the Autry has been dealing with a frustrated attempt at a $175-million expansion of its facilities, ultimately withdrawing its proposal last year. The organization said this year that it will embark on a seven-year, $75-million renovation of both its Griffith Park museum and an annex building in Burbank.

-- David Ng

[updated: An earlier version of this story said that Daniel M. Finley's first name was David.]

Photo: the Autry National Center. Credit: via

Photo: Daniel M. Finely. Credit: Autry National Center.

Autry Center welcomes Roy Rogers' first guitar to collection

July 23, 2010 | 11:00 am


It was Cincinnati, 1929, and the Slye family was struggling to make ends meet.  To help out, 17-year-old Leonard Slye traded high school for a shoe factory job.  Perhaps it was a youthful whim that led him to pay $20 for a guitar from a secondhand shop.  Little did he realize how much the investment would pay off, leading him down happier trails to a life of fame and success as TV, film and radio star Roy Rogers.

On July 14 and 15, an auction at Christie's dispersed artifacts of the now-closed Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Mo., including the guitar that gave Rogers his start.  Now, the Autry National Center owns that memento of American cultural history. The guitar was one of 1,000 artifacts sold in an event that netted $2.98 million.  

Other treasures included the preserved figures of Rogers’ horse and dog; Trigger sold for $266,000 and Bullet for $35,000.  Nellybelle, the cowboy’s jeep, went for $116,500.  As for the hand-drawn music and lyrics of “Happy Trails?” Just $27,500.

The Autry Center, which includes the Museum of the American West, hasn’t disclosed the price of the guitar, except to say that its purchase was made possible by Lora and Bob Sandroni and the support of Stuart Simon and Jo-Carole and Gary M. Zechel.  The Autry will include the guitar in its Roy Rogers and Dale Evans archive, whose contents are being cataloged and digitally recorded. Some artifacts are now on display in the Imagination Gallery and lobby of the Museum of the American West, including a plastic saddle that cushioned Rogers as he rode Trigger in the 1952 Tournament of Roses Parade.

John Gray, president and CEO of the Autry, said in a statement, “The Autry is proud to add this important guitar, which sparked the illustrious career of Roy Rogers, to our collection.” 

-- Daina Beth Solomon

Photo: Roy Rogers' first guitar, bought in 1929, finds a new home at the Autry. Credit: Autry National Center

Autry to remodel, creating Native American galleries in Griffith Park and annex in Burbank

June 30, 2010 |  4:53 pm

AutryNationalCenter Making an end run around  Los Angeles officials, who last year frustrated its plans for a major expansion in Griffith Park, the Autry National Center on Wednesday cleared the way for new galleries in its existing museum by buying an office-industrial building in Burbank as a storehouse for its 500,000-object collection.

The Autry announced plans for a new permanent Native American gallery called "First Californians," devoted to times predating Europeans' arrival, and another gallery for rotating exhibitions drawn from the vaunted collection of nearly 300,000 Native American artworks and artifacts that the Autry acquired in 2003, when it absorbed the financially troubled Southwest Museum of the American Indian on Mt. Washington. The Autry plans to gradually open 25,000 square feet of additional gallery space, starting in 2013.

The Autry had hoped to carry out a $175-million expansion and renovation in Griffith Park that would have nearly doubled the size of the 142,000-square- foot building. But at the urging of Southwest Museum supporters who fear the Autry is bent on turning it into a stepchild with nothing to draw the public, a panel of City Council members last year refused to approve the plan unless the Autry made a legally binding guarantee that the Southwest would continue to operate as a museum "in perpetuity."

The Autry withdrew its plan last August, saying it couldn't make such a promise. Instead, it set its sights on a less ambitious remodeling of the existing Griffith Park museum -- a plan that, unlike the expansion proposal, would not need city approval of an environmental impact report and a change in the Autry's $1 a year lease on 13 acres of parkland.

Instead, the Autry said Wednesday, it will launch a seven-year, $75-million renovation of both the Griffith Park museum and the  Burbank building, which is 2.5 miles away. The Burbank site, a 77,000-square-foot building on 3.6 acres at 210 S. Victory Boulevard, fell to the Autry for $7.45 million Wednesday in an auction in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles.

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Monster Mash: Michael Crichton's Jasper Johns 'Flag' sets record; Pasadena Playhouse files for Chapter 11

May 12, 2010 |  8:04 am

Getprev-23  -- Big money: Artwork from the estate of writer Michael Crichton has brought $93.3 million at auction, led by Jasper Johns' "Flag" (1960-66), which sold for a record price of $28.6 million. (Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg).

-- Recovery plan: The Pasadena Playhouse has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in hopes of regaining its financial footing so it can present shows on a stage that has been dark since Feb. 7. (Los Angeles Times)

-- Warm welcome: Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have opened their national tour with two sold-out concerts in San Francisco. As they wend their way across the country you can follow the action on the Phil's new blog.  (Los Angeles Times)

-- Happy trails: The Autry National Center has acquired the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive, which contains materials and memorabilia from the couple's more than 50 years in show business. (Los Angeles Times)

-- Expansion plan: Tate Modern is celebrating its 10th birthday by buying works from the Mideast, North Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America in an attempt to "collect the best art regardless of geography." (Guardian)

-- Concessions: North Carolina Symphony musicians -- and their conductor -- have agreed to pay cuts to help the debt-ridden orchestra survive the rocky economy. (News & Observer)

-- Prize winner: American sculptor Richard Serra has won Spain's Prince of Asturias Award in the arts and will receive a $63,000 prize and a Joan Miro sculpture. (Associated Press)

-- Identity crisis: British playwright Alan Ayckbourn lost thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry after he mistook a burglar for a house guest at his sprawling five-story residence, according to court proceedings. (Times of London)

-- Tribute: Broadway dimmed its lights Tuesday night in memory of singer Lena Horne. (TheaterMania)

-- L.A. artist: Craig Kauffman, a spark plug of the Los Angeles art scene in the late 1950s and early '60s, has died at 78 in the Philippines. (Los Angeles Times)

-- Follies favorite: Doris Eaton Travis, a former Ziegfeld Follies dancer who wowed audiences as recently as April with her annual appearances at Broadway's Easter Bonnet AIDS benefits, has died at 106. (Playbill)

Also in the Los Angeles Times: L.A. architect Peter Zellner has become a go-to guy for the art world; documentary filmmaker Lance Laspina remembers Frank Frazetta, the fantasy painter and illustrator whose sinewy warriors and lush vixens graced paperback novels, album covers and comic books.

--Karen Wada

Photo: Jasper Johns' "Flag," sold at auction Tuesday night. Credit: Christie's

Monster Mash: Lena Horne dies at 92; Manet self-portrait up for auction; 'Fatal Attraction' on stage

May 10, 2010 |  8:21 am

Horne -- Sophisticated lady: Lena Horne, whose beauty, resilience and silky voice helped her overcome racial barriers to go from Cotton Club chorus girl to stage, screen, nightclub and recording star, has died at 92 in New York. (Los Angeles Times)

-- Hot market: Edouard Manet's "Self Portrait with a Palette" -- the latest in a series of high-value Impressionist and modern works to be offered for sale -- could bring as much as $44 million when it goes up for auction in June. (Bloomberg)

-- Bunnies, beware: A stage version of the 1987 Michael Douglas-Glenn Close romance-revenge film "Fatal Attraction" may be heading to the West End. (Guardian)

-- A real Raphael? An ornately framed portrait painting that had been kept in the storeroom of an Italian palace for years may be an original Raphael and not a copy as long thought. (Associated Press)

-- Road trip: Less than a month after it opened, the Broadway revival of  "La Cage aux Folles" -- which is up for 11 Tonys in June -- has announced plans to launch a national tour in the fall of 2011. (Wall Street Journal)

-- Music lover: Flora Laney Thornton, a longtime Los Angeles philanthropist and patron of the arts for whom USC's School of Music is named, has died at 96. (Los Angeles Times)

-- Back onstage: Emmy winner Edie Falco and Tony nominee Alison Pill are set to open this week in Chloe Moss' prize-winning life-after-prison play, "This Wide Night," off Broadway. (Playbill)

Also in the Los Angeles Times: Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne visits Medellin, Colombia, where investing in ambitious civic architecture has sparked a renaissance; Victoria Looseleaf reviews Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet at UCLA's Royce Hall; a new exhibition at the Autry Museum tells how women helped shape the American West; music critic Mark Swed looks back at Southwest Chamber Music's role in the first large-scale cultural exchange between the United States and Vietnam.

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Lena Horne in 1981, when she won a Tony for her one-woman show, "The Lady and Her Music." Credit: Christian Steiner / Thirteen / WNET

'Cowboys of the Silver Screen' stamps to be unveiled at the Autry

April 9, 2010 |  3:30 pm

CowboystampCowboys Gene Autry, William S. Hart, Tom Mix and Roy Rogers are returning for an appearance at The Autry National Center. On April 17, the United States Postal Service plans to release the “Cowboys of the Silver Screen” stamps, featuring the four performers who helped make the American western a popular form of entertainment.

An official unveiling will take place at the Autry, where the postal service will be hand-canceling stamps with the official first-day-of-sale postmark.

A lobby exhibition, with artifacts relating to all four screen legends, is planned, focusing on different aspects of their film careers, which covered the silent era through the singing era.

Guest speakers will include Jackie Autry (Gene Autry's widow), Cheryl Rogers-Barnett (daughter of Roy Rogers) and stamp artist Robert Rodriguez of Monrovia, who based the stamp illustrations on vintage film posters.

The ceremony is free and open to the public.

-- Liesl Bradner

Photo: The "Cowboys of the Silver Screen" stamps. Credit: United States Postal Service 


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