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Museum leaders and others: What Pacific Standard Time means to me

September 26, 2011 |  1:11 pm


Anyone familiar with the Getty-funded arts extravaganza called Pacific Standard Time, which officially kicks off this weekend, knows that it's not the easiest thing to summarize.

It has many parts, now involving more than 60 museums and cultural venues and 70 commercial galleries from San Diego to Santa Barbara. It has multiple goals -- from changing the course of art history to boosting cultural tourism. And easy comparisons to the Olympics or the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival tend to get dismissed almost as quickly as mentioned.

So in the course of reporting several stories on the $10-million enterprise, including this broad overview, one question asked across the board was: How would you describe Pacific Standard Time for somebody who's never heard of it? Here are some different takes.

The show that Henry Geldzahler did for the Met [in 1970] “New York Painting and Sculpture 1940-70," seemed to consolidate the fact that New York had taken over from Paris as the leading art center. I see Pacific Standard Time as being Los Angeles’ effort to do that. We are now declaring that we have reached the stage where we are a truly significant, international art presence. I’d like to think that this will prove a watermark. People will point and say: New York dominated the art world until 2011.

-- Hugh Davies, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

It’s an unprecedented collaboration, we’re talking about 60 different institutions in one region at one time. I can’t imagine that anyone else has pulled that off. That is huge, and it sends a strong message not just about this one historic moment in time but about how the city is coming together and recognizing the value of culture that is homemade here.

-- Ann Philbin, director of the Hammer Museum

If Pacific Standard Time is successful, it will rewrite the history of 20th century art. It will be the first time that any institution has had the resources to challenge the MoMA version of 20th-century art.

-- Judy Chicago, artist included in eight Pacific Standard Time shows

It is an effort to define cultural history for a city that people don’t think has one. People will say L.A. is a hot center for art right now, as if it happened last week. That is the myth that we’re trying to correct.

-- Michael Govan, director of the L.A. County Museum of Art

It’s the most thorough, comprehensive look at art-making in Los Angeles over the period 1945-1980. What’s so exciting is the range of exhibitions, how it underscores the remarkable diversity of art-making practices that have taken place in Los Angeles. This is the best thing I’ve seen the Getty do since I don’t know when.

-- Joel Wachs, director of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York and former L.A. city councilman

The story of modern art looks very different when told from a West Coast perspective. For instance, for a long time it was thought that if you didn’t have a significant group of Abstract Expressionist painters like New York or San Francisco, you couldn’t be a major art center. And Los Angeles really had its own indigenous forms — like hard-edge painting, assemblage and ceramic sculpture. For a long time that was considered a real failing of Los Angeles. It’s actually a whole different origin point for postwar art.

-- Andrew Perchuk, deputy director of the Getty Research Institute


From Baldessari to Teske, top 20 PST artists

Pacific Standard Time makes a bid for L.A. in art history

-- Jori Finkel

Image: A portion of the customizable online exhibition map for Pacific Standard Time. Credit: Pacific Standard Time