In Sunday's Page 1 profile of Michael Govan, taking stock five years into his job, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art talked in detail about Michael Heizer's 340-ton boulder, "Levitated Mass," coming to LACMA this fall.
He also discussed two artist projects whose timeline is less certain. On the definitely indefinite front: Jeff Koons' vision for a life-size replica of a locomotive that would hang from a 161-foot-tall crane on the LACMA campus. When Govan first announced the plans in 2007, he compared it to the Eiffel Tower. That kind of landmark does not come cheap, and the artist told reporters as recently as two years ago that it's a $25-million artwork.
Since then the fundraising climate soured and Koons’ California fabricator, Carlson & Co, went out of business after completing a $2.3-million feasibility study, prompting many art-world insiders to call the project dead in the water. Govan and Koons say that's not the case. "I am very confident the work will be made," Koons says. He says they are now working with the German fabricator Arnold, outside of Frankfurt, to do an additional engineering study.
Govan says he has committed to spending half a million dollars for this new study but does not have "a final method of construction" or a "final fundraising plan." He admits he is "not completely certain" it will get built, adding that the work is "a kind of a dream. It’s this beautiful, beautiful image that means many things and could serve the purpose of marking this place as a center of the city, a large metropolis."
On another front, Govan says that the museum is still planning to host a major James Turrell exhibition -- originally discussed for 2011 and now tentatively planned for 2013 -- in collaboration with the Guggenheim and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Because Turrell's work is "site-involved if not site-specific, the idea is to coordinate these three venues to show different aspects of the work, not just travel the same show," says LACMA's director.
The new partnership between the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to conserve and promote the Watts Towers has paid its first dividend – a big one.
The museum announced Wednesday that it has received a $500,000, one-year grant from the James Irvine Foundation to carry out its work on the towers. The city couldn’t have landed the grant on its own because the San Francisco-based foundation doesn’t fund government agencies.
Facing extreme financial pressure, the city, which manages the towers under a long-term contract with the state of California, which owns them, had budgeted just $150,000 for this year’s work, down from a peak of $300,000 a few years ago. Last spring Virginia Kazor, the historical curator who had supervised towers conservation, took an early retirement offered as part of the drive to reduce government spending.
Conservation work came to a standstill; Olga Garay, executive director of the Department of Cultural Affairs, said no one else on the staff had the expertise to oversee it.
The solution was the partnership with LACMA, whose director, Michael Govan, has loved Simon Rodia’s folk-art masterpiece, now a national historic landmark, since the 1980s, when he was a graduate student at UC San Diego and made special trips to see it.
James Canales, president of the James Irvine Foundation, said Govan himself broached the idea of a grant supporting LACMA’s work. The foundation’s most recent grant to LACMA, in 2006, was a three-year, $900,000 gift to create a multimedia tour for museum visitors.
LACMA will funnel $25,000 of the Watts Towers grant to the cultural affairs department to use for programming at the towers-adjacent Watts Towers Arts Center and Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center. For the on-site conservation work, said Melody Kanschat, the museum’s president, LACMA will hire a project manager who will look to the neighborhood for paid, part-time helpers.
Plans also call for using some of the grant money to run summer bus tours from LACMA’s campus in Hancock Park to the towers, and to create ways for Watts residents to stay informed about the conservation work. Kanschat said museum officials already have begun showing the towers to prospective donors.
At a media event Thursday at the members-only Soho House on Sunset Boulevard, the organizers of Pacific Standard Time signaled their intention to start spreading the word about their colossal visual arts collaboration set to start in October 2011. In attendance were dozens of local museum directors and publicists.
In essence, Pacific Standard Time is a set of museum exhibitions that will each in its own way explore the birth of the L.A. art scene, to be staged by about 50 institutions next fall in Southern California. The Getty Trust has organized and largely funded the event, distributing about $7.3 million to its institutional partners since 2008.
Now that the exhibitions (currently 47) and accompanying publications (roughly 20) are under way, the publicity and marketing efforts are about to begin. At the Soho House, over cocktails, meatballs and tuna tartare, the Getty announced a new website for the project, www.pacificstandardtime.org. It also screened a new promotional video by TBWA/Chiat/Day for Pacific Standard Time that uses the slogan: “One era. A million moments of impact.”
The glossy four-minute video features cameos by some local museum directors who are participating in the initiative: Ann Philbin of the Hammer Museum, Charmaine Jefferson of the California African American Museum, Michael Govan of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Jeffrey Deitch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, along with Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, which is organizing four of the shows on tap for 2011. They each take a shot at summing up the difficult-to-summarize event.
Noriega calls it “a surveying, documenting and preserving of the archive, to tell the history of what happened in Los Angeles in the middle of the 20th century.” Philbin calls it an “exciting” idea — “turning Southern California into one big extended museum with the freeways functioning as the hallways between the galleries.”
Click here for the full story about the countdown to Pacific Standard Time.
Photo: Garrett Gin of Bank of America, Ann Philbin of the Hammer Museum, Getty board Chairman Mark Siegel, Getty Interim President and CEO Deborah Marrow and Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti at the SoHo House West Hollywood. Photo credit: Ryan Miller / Capture Imaging
RECENT AND RELATED:
Over the last few years, museums here have literally been rolling out the red carpet for celebrities. Last year, MOCA's big gala drew Brad and Angelina and Gwen and Gavin. Last month, the Resnick gala at LACMA drew the likes of Tom Hanks, Teri Hatcher and Kim Kardashian.
All of the above took the time to pose for the paparazzi in front of museum logos. Kardashian also found a moment to tweet her 5-million-plus followers, "I'm at the most magnificent masquerade ball at the LACMA Museum!"
My sources for a larger story about Hollywood supporting the arts agreed that galas are important fundraising tools, as tickets sell for as much as $10,000 a seat. But opinion is split on the value of the red carpet itself.
Elizabeth Currid, a USC urban planning professor and author of the forthcoming book, "Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity," sees red-carpet events as key branding strategies. "I think this is a really smart move on the part of the museum directors and their boards. They get it: In order to generate buzz around cultural events, you need to bring cultural stars to them. It's a no-brainer.”
She also calls Kardashian's tweet "incredible p.r. for the museum -- if only 0.5% of her followers bother to look up LACMA, that's 2,500 people.”
But not everyone thinks celebrities send the right message. Dean Valentine, an art collector on the board of the Hammer Museum (which, for its part, has gala dinners without red carpets), is skeptical. "A museum's role is cultural and educational in the deepest sense. It's not clear to me that trotting celebrities out and having their mug shots taken has anything to do with promoting those values," he said.
"In the end, there's a real question: Do we care about art? Or do we treat a museum like just another bar or nightclub?"
-- Jori Finkel
Photo: Kim Kardashian at LACMA's Resnick gala. Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
RECENT AND RELATED:
Govan’s initial contract as museum leader had been due to expire April 1, 2011. In fulfilling that contract, he has earned a $1-million bonus promised when he was hired. His 2008-09 earnings, bonuses and benefits totaled $1.27 million, according to the museum’s most recent available tax return. Of that, $208,000 was a government salary and benefits as a Los Angeles County department head; the rest was paid by the private, nonprofit organization that operates the county-owned museum.
[Updated 5 p.m., Oct. 22]: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Govans earnings as $1.062 million in 2008-09, including a $162,500 government salary. $1.062 million is his compensation from Museum Associates, the private, nonprofit organization that operates LACMA; Govan's county earnings were $144,400 salary and $63,200 in benefits, bringing his combined earnings and benefits for the year to $1.27 million.
Govan came to LACMA in April 2006 following 11 years as head of the Dia Art Foundation in Manhattan and Beacon, N.Y.
Read the complete story here.
-- Mike Boehm
Photo, left: Govan with Chris Burden's "Urban Light" on the LACMA grounds. Credit: Jay L. Clendinen/Los Angeles Times
If the art world were a horse race, then the annual power lists that art magazines generate toward the end of year would really matter. Who placed and who didn't? Who inched ahead of whom? Which dark horse upset the race?
But seeing that the art world is only part horse race, it's hard to know exactly how to take rankings such as ArtReview's newly released Power 100 for 2010. Except as amusement, or maybe as shorthand for some of the year's most inescapable (not to say inevitable) trends.
According to this year's list, and almost every critic in the country, 2010 was the year that performance art went mainstream. Hence Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg (No. 9) and art star Marina Abramovic (35) climbed the list, and the elusive event-based artist Tino Sehgal (44) makes his debut.
In 2010 Jerry Saltz reached the point of near-ubiquity, thanks to his run on Bravo's "Work of Art" and free-for-alls with Facebook friends, on top of his New York magazine reviews. So this year the anonymous judges behind the list gave Saltz (75) the edge over his wife, New York Times critic Roberta Smith (80).
It was also a year in which L.A.'s most prominent collector, Eli Broad (8) made news on several counts, first for helping to bring Jeffrey Deitch (12) on board as MOCA's new director and then for firming up plans to open his own museum next door.
The other L.A. choices:
Jorge Pardo, 47, has some serious fans. He's a darling of certain design magazine editors because of his art-architecture-design crossover appeal. He got a glowing review this summer for his show at Gagosian Gallery Beverly Hills from the Times' David Pagel. And the powers-that-be behind the MacArthur awards have just named the L.A. artist a 2010 fellow, which carries with it a $500,000 grant.
Pardo made his name in the art world in the 1990s by working the fine (or post-Duchamp, vigorously erased but ever visible) lines between art and design, and also craft and commodity. In 1998, he opened what would become his home, at 4166 Sea View Lane in Los Angeles, as a work of art (MOCA presented the “exhibition”), before settling in himself. A couple of years later, he famously covered the lobby and bookstore of Dia Center for the Arts in New York in glossy, colorful tiles that made a painting out of the building’s interior. And for years he has been making his signature hanging lamps for public spaces or the hideaways of wealthy art collectors.
His work was early on grouped with Andrea Zittel, who also rethinks domestic spaces. But over the years she has in some ways grown more philosophical, and he more technological in emphasis. Being an artist for Pardo means, among other things, being a fabricator. The last time I visited his studio he had a dozen employees running various work stations: It was part woodworking shop, part plastics manufacturer, and part graphic design outfit, complete with laser cutters and a wood router to turn computer images into three dimensions.
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."
Tony Smith's monumental sculpture 'Smoke' will not disappear from LACMA; multimillion-dollar purchase finalized
It's hard to imagine the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Ahmanson Pavilion without Tony Smith's Smoke--a monumental, multifaceted sculpture that the space was redesigned to showcase. Now, museum visitors don't have to.The work, which has been on loan from the artist’s estate for more than two years, today belongs to the museum.
LACMA Director Michael Govan confirmed Friday that after several months of intense fundraising efforts, the museum has acquired the work for an undisclosed amount reported to exceed $3 million.
“What I can say is that the sculpture is insured for over $5 million,” Govan said, “but the estate made a significant discount to us because they thought it was a good idea to keep it in Los Angeles.”
“There is no other major Tony Smith on this coast,” Govan added. He described this particular work, which was first built in 1967 and refabricated by the estate in 2005, as “a cornerstone in the transition of sculpture in the mid-1960s from a solid object you move around to something you can move within,” comparing Smith to artists like Dan Flavin and Robert Irwin in that respect.
Kiki Smith, one of Tony Smith's daughters and a celebrated sculptor in her own right (who worked with her father to make the model for "Smoke"), says that she and her sister, Seton, are happy that the sculpture has found a good home. "It seems to function like a heart for the museum," she says.
So why did the acquisition take so long? Govan chalks it up to the “collapse of the economy” in 2008, and a certain amount of inertia because the piece was already on display at LACMA. But word of a competing offer this year gave the museum a renewed sense of urgency. The museum director says that a relatively new trustee from Bel-Air, who prefers to remain anonymous, provided the full funding for acquisition.
Originally built out of plywood instead of metal for cost reasons, Smith's sculpture appeared on the October 13, 1967, cover of Time magazine with the tag line "Sculptor Tony Smith: Art Outgrows the Museum.” In 2005, the 22-foot tall sculpture was re-created by the artist's estate with the same dimensions—45 feet long by 33 feet wide—in painted aluminum. Renzo Piano redesigned the Ahmanson Pavilion in 2007 with the sculpture in mind, and it was installed there in multiple pieces.
Art critic Christopher Knight, writing in The Times in 2008, described it as a dynamic, "shape-shifting" sculpture that appears from one position to “rise on hind legs” and from another “to stretch out like a cat in sunshine.”
Or, as Govan said, sounding much like an art critic himself, “The play between the geometry or predictability of the system and the chaotic experience of the piece is incredible—that’s why it’s one of the most powerful sculptures of the 20th century.”
"The size. The elegance. I had never seen anything like it," says Singer, the curator of Japanese art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "It was a no-brainer. I told them, 'Ship him over and we'll fund-raise for him.'"
True to his word, Singer and the museum secured the necessary financing. On Thursday, the 6th century terra cotta horse will make its public debut at LACMA, where it is expected to become a signature piece of the Japanese art collection.
Haniwa -- which means "circle of clay" -- are hollow, unglazed sculptures that adorned the surfaces of the mounded tombs of the rich and powerful in 4th through 7th century Japan. Most are shaped like cylinders or in the form of houses, people, animals and military, ceremonial and household objects.
Singer has seen a number of haniwa horses, notably one on display at Tokyo National Museum, the country's oldest and largest museum. None, he says, is as big as LACMA's new acquisition, which is 4 feet tall and 4 feet long. (The Tokyo figure is less than 3 feet high.)
No one seems to know why this horse is larger than the others, says Singer as he stands next to the clay creature in the Pavilion for Japanese Art. "But everyone who sees it reacts to its size -- and its charisma. Look at this face. He just draws you in."