Archive for the ‘Permanent Collection’ Category
“If you look at history, too many great collections ended up in storage and not being shown.”[i] – Eli Broad
Eli Broad, like Alice Walton, the Fishers and George Lucas, has a long history with the city in which he practices his “venture philanthropy.” Broad was not born in Los Angeles, but like the Fishers in San Francisco, he has a long involved history with existing arts and cultural institutions. He has sat and currently sits on the boards of many art museums. Like the Fishers, Lucas and Walton, his decision to build a museum to house his art collection is motivated (partially) by his commitment to his city. But Broad is also doing something in addition to what the Fishers, Lucas and Walton did with their museums; he is utilizing his museum project as leverage for further economic growth. Sure Walton sees Crystal Bridges as having a positive economic effect on Bentonville, but there is nothing in Bentonville: Crystal Bridges is the local economy. Broad is building his museum, not in a rural city, but in the second-most highly populated city in America. Los Angeles already has the strongest brand of any city in the world, and an existing diversified economy. Sure, part of Los Angeles’ economy depend on arts and culture, but it arguably has plenty of existing organizations and venues. If Eli Broad had attempted to build his museum in a place like San Francisco, he might have come up against more public opposition as did the Fishers and Lucas.
Alice Walton is the youngest daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. She was raised in Bentonville, Arkansas—also the location of the first Wal-Mart, and where Wal-Mart corporate headquarters is located. In the past decade Walton has been on a shopping spree of American art, from colonial to contemporary.[ii] The spree was fueled by her philanthropic project, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (she chose the name), also in Bentonville, a city with a population of 35,000. The cost for the project is unknown, but art blogger Lee Rosenbaum (CultureGrrl) investigated the museum’s 990s and revealed that between 2005 and 2010, the museum spent $508.57 million in “expenses for charitable activities”[iii]—an intentionally vague category. These activities most like are the acquisition of art but also the design and construction of the museum by architect Moshe Safdie.
“Even though Eli is not involved with the museum any longer, his name is still on that building. We should have never called it a museum. How can LACMA have a museum? LACMA is the museum.”
– Lynda Resnick, LACMA Trustee[i]
In February 2008, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The Renzo Piano-designed BCAM is not an autonomous museum; it is one of several buildings on LACMA’s museum campus (the largest American art museum west of Chicago).
LACMA was founded in 1961, when it seceded from the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in Exposition Park. The new art museum opened in 1965 with three buildings designed by William Pereira: the Bing, Ahmanson and Hammer buildings. In 1986, the Art of the Americas Building (then the Anderson Building) opened, and was followed in 1988, with the Pavilion for Japanese Art. The museum continued to grow when LACMA purchased the neighboring May Company department store building in 1994. (LACMA is currently collaborating with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bring a museum to the vacant building.[ii]) In 2001, plans for a tabula rasa campus designed by Rem Koolhaas were scrapped due to its ambitious scale (all existing buildings would have been raised) and lack of public support (a proposed bill would have provided public funds for the project, but was not passed by voters[iii]). Then in 2004, the board approved a multi-year capital campaign called Transformation.[iv]
Michael Govan, Wallis Annenberg Director and CEO of LACMA, inherited Transformation when he took LACMA’s helm in 2006 (little more than a year before BCAM’s inauguration). Exciting, high profile, high-cost building projects are Govan’s specialty. Before coming to LACMA, Govan had been the director of the Dia Art Foundation where he oversaw the renovation of an old Nabisco factory in the Hudson River Valley, into Dia Beacon—a gargantuan facility capable of housing many large-scale, contemporary art installations. Before Dia, Govan worked under Richard Armstrong at the Guggenheim Foundation and aided in the realization of the Guggenheim Bilbao. Govan had the resume required to lead LACMA during Transformation. Eli Broad was on the search committee that lured Govan to LACMA.[v]
Norton Simon Museum
As I was finishing up in this exhibition, I overheard a tour being given to what I presumed was a UCLA summer painting course. “We have the Getty in our own backyard, but the Getty’s collection kinda sucks. The Norton Simon’s is the really great collection of LA,” the teacher harped. I am paraphrasing. While I detest uninformed and unnecessary opinions (especially from arts educators) about which museum has the “best” collection, I can’t deny the Norton Simon has a pretty amazing one, and I don’t even like Impressionism. Significant Objects: The Spell of the Still Life presents a thematic cross section of the museum’s diverse collections and is an examination of “the ways in which these ostensibly mundane and insignificant subjects [harsh!] portrayed in painting and sculpture and works on paper are indeed significant.” Significant Objects does not present groundbreaking, paradigm shift-type discoveries or research, but is a huge success as a rich, educational opportunity for general audiences utilizing the permanent collection. Permanent collection show hurray! Here are the facts:
Private Collector Museums
As promised, lets explore a series of amazing/crazy collectors around the world who have built museums to house their collections. First up, David Walsh
Let’s begin in a dark corner at the bottom of the world, Tasmania. It is there that eccentric collector David Walsh (who made his fortunes developing gambling systems) built the Museum of Old And New Art to house his collections of antiquities and contemporary art. It is the largest privately funded museum in Australia with an $8 million annual operating budget. The funding comes from Walsh, and from other business Walsh developed on the sprawling Morilla estate where the museum is located.
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.