Category: Urbanism

Beverly Hills pulls out of the running for Eli Broad's art museum [Updated]

April 15, 2010 |  4:10 pm

Broad It now looks as if the museum Eli Broad wants to build to house his 2,000-piece contemporary art collection is going to land in Santa Monica or at Grand Avenue and 2nd Street in downtown Los Angeles, literally a stone's throw from Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Culture Monster received this notice of surrender just now from a city spokeswoman in Beverly Hills, saying the city has "other project priorities" for its money than buying Broad a site for his museum.

"The Beverly Hills City Council has confirmed that it has concluded discussions with The Broad Art Foundation regarding the potential site of a museum at the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd. As part of upcoming discussions on the adoption of the City’s fiscal year 2010-2011 budget, the Council will be reallocating to other project priorities the funds it had set aside for the potential acquisition of the property," the press release said.

"In a letter to Eli Broad, Beverly Hills City Manager Jeff Kolin said, 'While our City Council remains convinced that Beverly Hills offers an attractive location for your renowned art collection, we understand that The Broad Art Foundation is now considering other locations.'

"Kolin went on to say that should alternate sites not come to fruition, the City remained open to further partnership discussions."

We'll check with Broad or his art foundation minions in a moment and let you know what they have to add.

[Update, 6:15 p.m.] Broad has said the point of having multiple irons in the fire for his museum site is that competition between municipalities would ensure that bureaucratic red tape is minimized and planning moves ahead swiftly. Will Beverly Hills' dropping out increase the chances that the Santa Monica City Council and officials in charge of L.A.'s Grand Avenue Project could draw out the process and drive harder bargains because there's less competition to worry about?

"We're still interested in an expeditious process and decision," said Karen Denne, spokeswoman for the Broad Art Foundation. "All three locations had challenges, but we've still got two viable options." She said Broad still expects to decide the museum site by the end of spring.

— Mike Boehm


Santa Monica still pursuing Eli Broad's museum

Photo: Eli Broad. Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

Broad set to choose Grand Avenue?

March 17, 2010 |  9:45 am

Getprev-14 The Architect's Newspaper is reporting that Eli Broad, who has been shopping for a location for a museum to hold his Broad Art Foundation's collection of post-war and contemporary art, will choose a site on Grand Avenue that is part of developer Related Cos.' stalled Grand Avenue project. The site is across Grand from the Colburn School of Performing Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art and across 2nd Street from Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The report should be taken with a significant grain of salt, since it relies on a single -- and hardly disinterested -- source: Martha Welborne, managing director of the Grand Avenue Committee. A spokesperson for Broad tells the publication that no decision has been made. Broad has seemed to be playing contending sites -- notably parcels in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills -- against one another all along as he shops for an attractive deal. His interest in the fate of Grand Avenue, of course, is well known. The new director of MOCA, Jeffrey Deitch, has reportedly been pitching the Grand Avenue site to Broad, founding chairman of the museum in 1979 and more recently one of its financial saviors.

Welborne joined the architecture firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca at the beginning of the year, while continuing her work for the Grand Avenue Committee.

-- Christopher Hawthorne

Above: Eli Broad, right, and Jeffrey Deitch, left, in January at MOCA. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

NEA chairman Landesman encounters the arts on Skid Row

March 15, 2010 |  4:02 pm

Rocco A few weeks ago, Rocco Landesman, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, was in the East Room of the White House as President Obama conferred this year's National Medal of Arts on Jessye Norman, Rita Moreno, Maya Lin and Michael Tilson Thomas, among others.

On Monday, the cowboy-booted country music fan and self-described "recovering producer" who made his name on Broadway spent about 90 minutes in a very different neighborhood.

"We're in an area of 44 blocks. It's called Skid Row," Cynthia Harnisch, president of Inner-City Arts, told Landesman, his wife, Debby, and the small entourage that had arrived with them in a white chartered van through the automatic gate that secures the placid, palm-treed campus from the tough streets outside.

Landesman was beginning a day in L.A. whose itinerary would later encompass tonier precincts of the local arts scene, including the Music Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art. It's part of his ongoing "Art Works" tour, named after the new catch-phrase he coined in hopes of crystallizing for a nation the idea that the arts are intrinsic to its spiritual well being and socioeconomic fate and not just an accessory. Having checked out developments in Peoria, Ill., St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., Miami and Philadelphia since November, Landesman has made it to California for a swing that began over the weekend in San Diego and also includes San Francisco and Oakland.

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Obama confers arts and humanities medals on big names, including Dylan and Eastwood

February 25, 2010 |  6:12 pm

BobDylan After deliberating for hours on healthcare in Thursday's summit, President Obama turned to the arts, entertainment, literature and scholarship, conferring the National Medal of Arts -- the nation's highest award in the field -- on 12 recipients and the National Humanities Medal on eight others.

The two no-shows among the arts medalists in late afternoon ceremonies in the East Room of the White House were the biggest names: Bob Dylan and Clint Eastwood, who were unable to attend and will pick up their medals some other time.

The other arts honorees, continuing in the alphabetical order that put Dylan and Eastwood first and second on the list released by the National Endowment for the Arts, which oversees the annual lifetime achievement awards for "contributions to the creation, growth and support of the arts in the United States":

ClintEastwood Milton Glaser, graphic designer; Maya Lin, artist and designer; Rita Moreno, singer, dancer and actress; Jessye Norman, soprano; Joseph P. Riley Jr., arts patron, design advocate; Frank Stella, painter and sculptor; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor; and John Williams, composer.

Also honored were two organizations, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio, and the School of American Ballet in New York City.

Glaser designed the "I (Heart) New York" logo; Riley has been mayor of Charleston, S.C., since 1975 and is credited with having "drawn on and nurtured the city's historic and artistic resources to reinvigorate it economically and culturally, setting a national standard for urban revitalization in the process."

The others are more or less household names, but if you need a quick reminder:

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Long Beach City Council will consider laws to help the local arts scene

February 23, 2010 |  6:02 am

Members of the Long Beach City Council hope to get City Hall off the backs of working artists, street performers and informal arts venues such as galleries, bookstores and coffee houses, while impaneling a new commission to brainstorm ways to boost the city government’s funding of the arts.

Pegged as an “Arts and Cultural Initiative for Long Beach,” the package of proposals comes from six of the nine council members, although not all are co-sponsors of every element. The council is expected to take them up at its March 2 meeting.

The changes, council member Robert Garcia noted in a statement Monday announcing the proposed overhaul of existing policies, “come out of months of discussions with arts advocates, who helped identify [laws] that are obsolete or not conducive to a thriving urban arts community.”

One change would excuse artists from having to pay the city’s annual business license fee unless their earnings topped a certain threshold . The sponsors say Los Angeles waives license fees for artists who gross less than $300,000, while Seal Beach, the Orange County community that borders Long Beach, does the same for artists who gross up to $20,000.

Also on the agenda: erasing or easing rules that require an entertainment permit for any musical performance that’s amplified or done by a group larger than a duo. The proposal by council members Garcia, Suja Lowenthal and Patrick O’Donnell says “the result is that the arts, music and cultural activities are stifled ... by the city.” They want venues that admit all ages and don’t serve alcohol to be allowed to offer music occasionally without a permit, if the performance is primarily for listening rather than dancing, the volume is reasonable and the hour not too late.

Other new ordinances would promote artist lofts and repeal an existing law that limits street performances to the center of downtown only, and then only with a permit.

The potentially farthest-reaching proposal would establish a panel of as many as nine members with “proven expertise” in the arts, business, finance and nonprofit management to generate ideas for boosting city funding of the arts, and for improving how those funds are allocated. It would have 90 days to brainstorm and report back to the city council.

The council recently cut annual funding for the Long Beach Museum of Art from $569,000 to $169,000 – partly because of tight municipal finances, but also because City Hall was unhappy over having to pay off $3 million in construction bonds after the museum’s private-nonprofit board had failed to deliver on a promise to retire the bonds with its own fundraising. Funding for the city government’s arts agency, the Arts Council for Long Beach, also has been reduced over the past two years.

-- Mike Boehm


City cuts $400,000 from Long Beach Museum of Art

Photo: Downtown Long Beach and waterfront. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times

Artists offer billboard alternatives

February 14, 2010 |  1:46 pm

Newkirk billboard (4c) The MAK Center for Art and Architecture has begun to roll out its artist-designed billboard project across Los Angeles. (Taggers have already taken note.) A creative response to the city's notorious inability to reign in commercial yakking above the urban expanse, "How Many Billboards? Art In Stead" will number 21 by the time March comes around. Five are up now.

Among the best is Kori Newkirk's wonderfully ambiguous image across from the south edge of Lafayette Park, on Wilshire Boulevard between Hoover Street and Commonwealth Avenue. Against a white field, the close-up face of a black man is cropped just above his closed eyes and at the shoulders. A cottony white ball emerges from his open mouth -- partly a muzzling gag that prevents free and unencumbered speech, especially given its inescapable allusion to slavery's American history.

Newkirk has printed the photograph slightly out of focus, though, so that the lumpy sphere also suggests a snowball. Looking at it reminded me of David Hammons' iconic 1983 "public performance sculpture" in which he sold snowballs, priced according to size, on a Harlem sidewalk. A mordant mix of innocent playfulness and defiant aggression is declared. The quiet difference from most commercial billboards, with their loud, fast salesmanship, is palpable.

Newkirk billboard c Unsurprisingly, L.A. has a long history of knowing artistic interaction with the billboard form, going back at least to 1965. That's when Ed Ruscha, trained as a graphic designer and using the pseudonym "Eddie Russia," began a four-year stint doing all the layout work for Artforum magazine. Artforum's unusual square format, distinctive on the newsstand, became even more so when opened: The wide horizontal rectangle became a "hand-held billboard" for the graphic display of pictures and text.

The MAK Center has set up a website for its billboard project, headed by director Kimberli Meyer, complete with a map that can be downloaded to a hand-held device, a schedule of Saturday open-topped bus tours for those uninterested in battling traffic and a calendar of related events. There's also a useful Twitter link, where each newly installed billboard is announced.

-- Christopher Knight

Photos: Kori Newkirk, "Untitled" (2010), billboard. Credit: Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times


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Downtown L.A. is officially a contender for Eli Broad's art museum

January 25, 2010 |  4:02 pm

GrandAvenueProject Here's the latest installment in the courtship of Eli Broad -- and the art museum he aims to plunk somewhere in the Los Angeles Basin, complete with big-name architecture, a spiffy $200 million endowment and the 2,000 works of contemporary art held by his Broad Art Foundation.

Downtown L.A. is officially making a play, courtesy of the Grand Avenue Authority, which today authorized negotiations with Broad toward a possible deal that would wrest the museum from Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, which are also in the running.

After a closed session today of the Grand Avenue Authority, L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, a member of the joint city-county authority that's overseeing development of vacant land and parking lots in the heart of downtown's arts district, said it will deploy a negotiating team "to proceed with discussions with the Broad Foundation to consider his proposal and reach a mutual agreement."

The Grand Avenue project, of which Broad himself has been a leading advocate, is considered the centerpiece of downtown's revitalization. Designed by Frank Gehry, it includes two towers, condos, hotel rooms and a shopping center. The project, which involves public land and a private developer, stalled last year after the developer was unable to secure a multibillion-dollar construction loan amid the global credit crunch. A Broad Museum launch there would be a coup that could help rebuild momentum for the plan.

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Rick Lowe, acclaimed for art-as-urban-recovery, returns to L.A. for a residency at Otis College

January 7, 2010 |  5:00 am

Ricklowe Culture Monster recently gave an update on the Watts House Project, the “collaborative artwork in the shape of a neighborhood redevelopment” that aims to carry out a long-haul upgrade of 20 private homes facing the Watts Towers on E. 107th Street.

Now comes news that Rick Lowe, the Houston-based artist and activist who planted the seed for the project 15 years ago, will be back in town as an artist in residence at Otis College of Art and Design. He’ll begin with a free public lecture on Jan. 13, then spend nine weeks helping graduate students in the school’s Public Practice program, who are training to create art in the civic realm.

Lowe’s chief accomplishment is Project Row Houses, which he launched in Houston in 1993. The initial work of rehabbing 22 abandoned homes in the city's Third Ward as a community center serving both aesthetic and social ends has grown to 40 structures, according to the Project Row Houses website. Michael Kimmelman, art critic of the New York Times, wrote in 2006 that it “may be the most impressive and visionary public art project in the country.”

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Andy Warhol Foundation funds bid to rehab homes near Watts Towers as live-in art objects

December 21, 2009 |  5:04 pm

WattsHouseProject1 The Watts House Project, a grassroots nonprofit that’s enlisting neighborhood residents and volunteer artists to turn the row of homes facing the Watts Towers into an aesthetically engaging place to visit and live, will get a $125,000 boost from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The grant comes from the foundation’s Warhol Initiative, aimed at helping smaller arts nonprofits learn to raise money and improve their business operations so they’ll be better able to support and sustain their creative work.

The word came via a letter about three weeks ago, capping a “really phenomenal year,” said Edgar Arceneaux, the Pasadena-based artist who is the Watts House Project’s volunteer executive director. He said renovations are in progress on seven homes  — out of 20 in the 1700 block of E. 107th Street that the group aims to rehabilitate with artful flourishes by 2018. About $250,000 has been raised over the past 18 months.

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Battle is brewing over a proposed skate park near the Watts Towers*

December 9, 2009 |  6:39 am

WattsTowersSkate Plans to build a large skateboarding park next to Simon Rodia’s folk-art masterpiece, the Watts Towers, has unhappy admirers of the towers girding for a land-use fight against high-powered opposition.

City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose district includes Watts, is a key proponent of the skate park, which also is being pushed by Circe Wallace, a manager for the L.A. sports marketing and management company, Wasserman Media Group, and two of her pro skateboarder clients, Terry Kennedy and Paul Rodriguez. Skateboarding star Tony Hawk has raised $44,000 toward its estimated cost of $350,000 or more.

Although acknowledging that youngsters in Watts need more recreational opportunities, opponents of the skate park, which would be longer than a football field and two-thirds as wide, are asking why it has to occupy a vacant parcel about 40 yards from the vulnerable towers.

They worry that a noisy attraction could interfere with visitors’ enjoyment of the towers and that the skate park could bring in graffiti taggers, drug users and violence, threatening both the physical safety of Rodia’s fantastical, ornately decorated structures and their potential to draw tourism.

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