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MOCA bake sale draws a crowd

December 16, 2008 |  3:04 pm

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The first sell-out at the artists' bake sale to help the financially struggling Museum of Contemporary Art were the Giacometti baguettes: tall, spindly dough-boys and -girls reminiscent of the Swiss artist's tall bronze sculptures of enervated denizens of the modern world. Next went all but one letter in the frosted graham-cracker version of Christopher Wool's word-painting, "Paranoiac" -- reportedly snapped up by MOCA staffers, although Culture Monster will decline analysis of exactly why that would be the case.

Out on the sidewalk of the Grand Avenue building in downtown L.A., artists David Weiner and Angie Lee set out the baked goods from their kitchen-studio, most of them derived from works in the museum's celebrated collection. Among the unexpected delicacies was a do-it-yourself kit of boxed ingredients to make Chris Burden's installation sculpture, "Exposing the Foundations of the Museum," and an entire fruit pie from which Wiener cut Claes Oldenburg-style slices, complete with a la mode ice-cream.

Indeed, the sidewalk sale (no sales tally was available--UPDATE: sales totaled $320.10) recalled Oldenburg's famous 1961 "Store" in Lower Manhattan, where he sold painted papier-mache clothing and food. MOCA has the largest museum collection of works from that landmark episode in contemporary art -- just one indication of the depth and significance of the 29-year-old institution.

The curious crowd that gathered seemed hesitant to ask the bakers to slice into the fastidious cake representations of paintings by Agnes Martin, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns. One, er, collector solved the problem by acquiring the entire Judy Fiskin "Stucco" cake.

And finally, in a shocking breach of journalistic ethics, Culture Monster could resist no longer and boldly inserted itself into the story, buying four pieces of Vija Celmins' "Night Sky" brownies. Perhaps it was because they were set out next to the lovely but beyond-our-reach financier cookies, priced at a heady $1-million apiece.

Aside from the light-hearted frivolity, the event had its serious side. The most important constituency for a museum devoted to contemporary art is not collectors, curators, critics, tourists or other art mavens; the most important constituency is artists. If they're not especially interested in a museum's program -- whether a museum specifically focused on current art or one that simply incorporates it into a larger artistic scheme -- then the museum won't be more than second-tier. The bake sale, like the assembly of some 500 artists at the Geffen Contemporary several weeks ago, helps explain why MOCA is the nation's premier museum for the art of our time.

More pictures after the jump ...

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Artist-bakers Angie Lee, right, and David Weiner, center, chatting with artist Judy Fiskin

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The price list, ranging from $1 to $1,000,000.

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David Weiner cuts a slice of Claes Oldenburg-style fruit pie.

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The million-dollar financier cookies, awaiting purchase, next to Vija Celmin's "Night Sky" brownies.

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Four pieces of excellent Celmins-style brownies, back at Culture Monster's desk.

-- Christopher Knight

Photos: Christopher Knight

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