Chouinard Art Institute has come to life for the third time in 90 years -- this time on the Web, where the high overhead costs that eventually sank the original, highly influential school in 1972 and blunted an attempted revival during the 2000s no longer will be a factor.
The Chouinard Foundation website is devoted to telling the story and documenting the influence of the art college (pictured) that a war widow named Nelbert Murphy Chouinard (pronounced shuh-nard) launched near downtown L.A. in 1921, continuing for more than 50 years until it was contentiously consumed in the creation of CalArts.
The Chouinard alumni roster includes Robert Irwin, Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, Allen Ruppersberg, Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, graphic artist John Van Hamersveld (designer of “The Endless Summer” film poster and the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” and the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” album covers) and the "Nine Old Men," the crew of animators who played vital roles in the triumph of Walt Disney.
The site offers videos, news articles and historical background on Chouinard’s initial run and the activities of the Chouinard Foundation, which began improbably in 1999 after Dave Tourje, an artist, guitarist and construction company owner, bought Nelbert Chouinard’s 1907 home in South Pasadena as a fixer-upper without knowing much about her, then became enthralled with the notion of restoring her legacy along with her former domicile.
What do New York painter Chuck Close, L.A. artist Laddie John Dill and the estate of L.A. sculptor Robert Graham have in common? They are lead plaintiffs in a pair of class-action lawsuits filed Tuesday against the New York operations of Sotheby's and Christie's, alleging that the auction houses violated the California Resale Royalty Act.
The 1977 California statute, a rare attempt in the U.S. to provide visual artists with a financial cut of appreciating artworks they made but no longer own, grants artists 5% of the proceeds from the resale of their artwork under certain conditions. One is that the seller lives in California or the sale occurs in California. The law applies only to "fine art" -- defined as "an original painting, sculpture, or drawing, or an original work of art in glass." Editioned photographs and prints are not included. The rights provided by the law extend to the artist's heirs for up to 20 years after the artist's death.
Eric M. George of Browne George Ross LLP in L.A. filed the pair of complaints Tuesday in federal court, charging the auction houses with "failure to comply" with the law by not withholding this royalty for the artists and by routinely going out of their way "to conceal the fact of a seller's California residency."
Close, Dill and Graham's estate are plaintiffs named on both suits. The foundation of L.A. painter Sam Francis, who died in 1994, also appears as a plaintiff in the suit against Christie's.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a spokeswoman for Sotheby’s as calling the claim meritless. A spokeswoman for Christie’s told the paper that the auction house looks forward to debating the validity of the law itself in court.
The law, initiated by former California state senator and art collector Alan Sieroty, was inspired by European visual arts royalties like the French "droit de suite" as well as the entertainment-industry model of residuals. The California Arts Council maintains information about the law on its website, as well as a list of artists that it is seeking for payment. Some artists like Ed Ruscha are known to be scrupulous about collecting their 5% of resales.
But both awareness and enforcement of the law have been spotty for years, which means that the art world will be following these proceedings closely. If successful, these suits could be more than a slap against Christie's and Sotheby's: They could affect how galleries with resale practices throughout California run their business -- or shift that business elsewhere.
An exodus of artwork from L.A.
-- Jori Finkel
Photo: In 2000, bids are taken on Claude Monet's 'Nympheas' at Christie's auction house. Credit: Louis Lanzano / For The Times
The Getty Museum and Getty Research Institute have acquired two troves of photographs by Ed Ruscha that the Getty says will make its Brentwood campus a key repository for viewers and scholars to consider how photography -- much of it showing grittier L.A. precincts -- has fed the artist’s oeuvre.
"I am humbled and elated to have my work go to the top of the hill," Ruscha said in a statement released by the Getty.
The museum, which previously had no Ruscha photographs, bought 74 prints and two contact sheets from Gagosian Gallery for an undisclosed price; many of those images are street-level or overhead views of Los Angeles that Ruscha incorporated in a series of books he self-published starting in 1962. Some of the shots became source material for signature Ruscha paintings, including his renderings of a Standard gas station in Amarillo, Texas (photograph pictured), and three mid-1960s Polaroids of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that became studies for his iconic “The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire.”
The other acquisition is Ruscha’s personal archive, “The Streets of Los Angeles,” which the Getty Research Institute will house. The Getty paid the artist for materials relating to Ruscha’s 1966 book, “Every Building on the Sunset Strip,” which is considered a breakthrough -- and a sort of precursor of the Google Maps “Street View” feature -- because the pictures were drive-by images, shot with an automatic camera mounted in the bed of a moving pickup truck.
Ruscha has continued to photograph L.A.'s streets and is donating more recent unpublished prints, negatives and film reels to the Getty.
The top two artists, Baldessari (with 11 shows) and Ruscha (with 10) are no surprise. Do any names on the list--or not on the list--surprise you?
The 20 Most Popular Pacific Standard Time Artists
Kiedis takes the driver's seat in a new TBWA\Chiat\Day\LA ad, the first video in a major campaign to promote Pacific Standard Time, the museum-fest that officially kicks off Oct. 1 and is designed to celebrate pioneering local artists like Ruscha.
The L.A. singer takes the L.A. artist on a spin through their sprawling hometown as they talk about art (including one "If" song by the Chili Peppers and one "So" painting by Ruscha). Sections of the Sunset Strip, which Ruscha famously photographed in 1966, stream by in the background.
The Hollywood sign also looms large, and it's not the only lettering you will see. The spot also shows snippets from their dialogue set against the city landscape in the style of Ruscha's famous word paintings. Apparently Ruscha also has some fans at Chiat\Day who appreciate his attention to typeface as an art form. (Whether the artist considers this appreciation -- or more imitation -- would be interesting to know.)
A three-minute version of the video is featured on the new Pacific Standard Time website, which also has a map and calendar to help you plan your museum visits. A 30-second version, below, appears on youtube.com and will run in Laemmle Theatres starting in November.
Word is the next spot in the series will pair actor Jason Schwartzman and artist John Baldessari.