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LACMA installs its Matisse ceramic wall

September 23, 2010 |  5:25 pm

Matisse La Gerbe 3
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is gearing up for the Oct. 2 public opening of its new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion. Meanwhile, Thursday the museum unveiled its newly installed ceramic wall by Henri Matisse, "La Gerbe (The Sheaf)," a 1953 commission by Beverly Hills patrons Sidney and Frances Brody and one of the final major works of the French artist's career. (Matisse died 56 years ago this Nov. 3.)

The 2,000-pound ceramic is installed on the upper plaza level of the Ahmanson Building, near the entry to the Modern art collection.

LACMA's blog, Unframed, has the fascinating back story on how the commission came about, how the bequest to the museum was made and how the wall was removed from the Brodys' patio, raised by crane over the garden wall and into the street and brought to the museum for installation on a steel-reinforced wall. (The photographs of the process are harrowing.) It also includes a phone number -- (888) 788-7457 -- which you can call to hear the late Frances Brody, who died last year at 93, talk about the commission.

The ceramic was based on a large paper cutout of the type Matisse made in his later years, when illness curtailed his work as a painter. The Brodys gave the cutout to UCLA many years ago. According to LACMA curator Stephanie Barron, it will be reunited with the finished ceramic, probably in 2012, for a small exhibition and publication about the work.

--Christopher Knight

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Photo: Henri Matisse, "La Gerbe (The Sheaf)," 1953, ceramic. Credit: Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times

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