Every Museum in L.A.
One of my favorite blogs is William Poundstone’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, it keeps me updated about L.A. and is always witty, and sometimes sassy. Poundstone recently blogged about the Broad Art Foundation’s new acquisition: Glenn Ligon’s Warm Broad Glow, which was in the recent Ligon show at LACMA. The news made me curious to see what else the Broad Art Foundation has been acquiring.
I was at first delighted and then confused to see that an Elliott Hundley work, the high house low! (above) was recently acquired by the Broad Art Foundation. Don’t get me wrong I love Hundley’s work, and I remember taking a full fifteen minutes to obsessively inspect this piece’s intricacies when it was in a Regen Projects show this past summer. What was confusing to me is that just last week MOCA announced it had also acquired an Elliott Hundley work, The Lightning’s Bride (below).
I’m just going to say it, The Lightning’s Bride and the high house low! are quite similar. Both are huge, multi-panel works done in Hundley’s signature photographic slash painting assemblage style. And both of the works were in the Regen Projects show over summer. I have no beef with Regen Projects, good for them for successfully representing Hundley, whose work I really admire and enjoy. What I do have beef with is that both MOCA and the Broad Art Foundation now have such similar works in their collections.
When The Broad opens it will showcase the Broad collections right across Grand Avenue from MOCA. Some people, including myself, have questioned if there is really a need to have two contemporary art museums across the street from one another in Downtown. One of MOCA director, Jeffrey Deitch’s defenses to this is that the two collections are not so similar. Deitch told the LA Downtown News in 2010 that, “The Broad Foundation’s collection fits in very, very well, and does not really compete with MOCA’s collection…It’s complementary.” Apparently MOCA’s collection is more historical (1939 onwards) than the Broad Art Foundation’s collection (1954 onwards). What a difference 15 years makes. Regardless of the composition of their collections presently, MOCA and the Broad will continue to collect into the future (as contemporary institutions should), so it seems silly and inappropriate for them to be collecting such similar work.
The Lightning’s Bride was acquired by MOCA through its acquisitions funds, so someone at MOCA deemed it really worth having. It’s the second Hundley work in the museum’s collection, and MOCA does have a history of showing Hundley. His A Sea Thrashed Thing (above) was included in MOCA’s George Herms: Zenophilia (Love of the Unknown) exhibition, which paired Herms with a group of younger assemblage artists. I remember noticing how much of the work in that show was loaned by the artists or galleries. The same issue I have with MOCA’s current Theaster Gates show (all but three works on view are on loan by Gate’s gallery).
If we also consider all of the museums in L.A. to really be a museum network (which they consider themselves to be, and as I consider them to be), then the Broad’s acquisition of the Hundley seems even more inappropriate. Not only does MOCA have a similar piece, but the Hammer has a similar work only a few years older. The Hammer presented Hundley’s Penthius (below) in a show of its recent acquisitions that ran the second half of 2010. (The Hammer also gave Hundley a solo show in 2006.)
Again I have no issue with Regen Projects pimping Hundley out to all the major local museums (look LACMA has a Hundley too), that’s a gallery’s job. What I do have issue with is the Broad Art Foundation collecting work so similar to what their future neighbor museum has. Even if the two organizations aren’t aware of it, they should be. This is where the arguments for having contemporary art museums across the street from each other get thin.
Anyways it doesn’t look like MOCA or the Broad Art Foundation will be showing their new Hundleys anytime soon; both works are in a traveling exhibition that was at the Wexner, is currently at the Nasher Sculpture Center, and “additional tour dates are expected.”
And why is the Broad Art Foundation purchasing a Glenn Ligon neon text work when LACMA already owns one? This isn’t a competition, it should be a community.