Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘architecture

Chapter 3 (Part 5): The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum

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“I thought a museum was a concept that people already bought into about 200 years ago. They’re having us do as much work as we can hoping that we will give up. […] They hate us.” – George Lucas

Like the Fishers, filmmaker George Lucas wanted to build a museum in San Francisco’s Presidio. Lucas wanted to bring his Lucas Cultural Arts Museum to Crissy Field – a beach-front portion of the Presidio National Park with killer views of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and the Bay. Lucas must be reading Eli Broad’s museum-building playbook: After Lucas’s proposal was rejected he threatened to take his museum and collection to another city. Will billionaire Lucas get what he wants by leveraging cities against one another? Remember those sweet deals Santa Monica and Beverly Hills offered Eli Broad when he was “considering” them instead of Downtown for his museum? We know how that turned out.

Lucas with Rockwell's "Shadow Artist."

Lucas with Rockwell’s “Shadow Artist.”

Lucas was making plans for his museum in 2009, but didn’t make a formal proposal until the Presidio Trust, which oversees and maintains the Presidio, sent out an RFP for the Crissy Field location. By March of 2013 16 proposals had been submitted, and by September those had been narrowed to three including Lucas’s museum. Lucas’s proposal was for a new Beaux-Arts-style museum to house his collections of illustration (lot of Norman Rockwell) and film ephemera (heard of Star Wars?). Lucas was willing to spend $700million: $300M for construction and $400M to endow it–he was good for it too, having sold the Star Wars franchise and Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $4.05 BILLION dollars… Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter 3 (Part 4): The Fishers & San Francisco

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“We don’t have a lot of choices about what to do with the art if you want someone to see it. You can’t make a deal with a museum to guarantee that the public sees it.”[i]Donald Fisher, 2007

Donald and Doris Fisher founded the retail giant the Gap in 1969 in San Francisco, California. The success of their company allowed the Fishers to amass a contemporary art collection of more than 1,000 works from more than 185 artists. The Fishers’ commitment to contemporary art was also philanthropic: both Donald and Doris sat on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the couple often lent large selections of their collection to the museum.

Despite the Fishers involvement at SFMOMA, and because of sentiments as in the above quotation, in 2007, the Fishers announced plans to build an independent museum venue in the city to house their collection. The Fishers desired to build a 100,000-square-foot museum in the historic Presidio area of San Francisco, which once served as a military base but is now a national park, and is home to some of the oldest buildings in the city.[ii] The estimated cost of the project was never given, but the Fishers planned on establishing a family trust, which would donate the funds for the construction of the building, and which in the future would be entrusted with operating the museum and conserving the collection. The museum was to be called the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio, or CAMP. “I want to have a little curatorial fun while I’m living,”[iii] said Donald Fisher, hoping the museum might open by 2010. The project was contingent on the approval of the board of the Presidio Trust, the organization which oversees the Presidio—a board that Donald Fisher had once sat on.

CAMP Rendering: We want more red tile!

CAMP Rendering: We want more red tile!

The public immediately disliked the project.[iv] The vocal historic preservationists of San Francisco were outraged, of course. The modern, glass-dominated architecture presented in renderings was criticized for being insensitive and out of touch with the existing structures of the Presidio. Some complained about the usage of public parklands being given over to private interest, some questioned if the museum project was even legal usage of national parkland. Still others brought up the most pertinent question: why would the Fishers (long-time supporters of SFMOMA) introduce a competitor institution to San Francisco, instead of donating the collection (or a portion of it) to the existing SFMOMA? The argument for CAMP made by few was that a culture capital like San Francisco could surely do with more venues for the arts and culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Chapter 2 (Part 1): The Grand Avenue Project, Arrested (Re)Development

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Eli can be a real pain in the ass.”[i] – Frank Gehry, architect, Walt Disney Concert Hall

Grand Avenue framed by Disney Concert Hall.

Grand Avenue framed by Disney Concert Hall.

Eli Broad’s dealings with MOCA coincided and aligned to renewed, old interests in downtown Los Angeles. Broad served as chairman of the Grand Avenue Committee, an advisory body formed in 2000, responsible for planning and overseeing a massive $3 billion redevelopment plan for an area along Grand Avenue and Bunker Hill originally estimated to be completed in 2009.

In the previous decade, Broad had been instrumental in the realization of Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The widely recognized structure was designed by Frank Gehry in his now iconic style of undulating silver forms. Lillian Disney (wife of Walt) initiated the concert hall project in 1987, with an initial gift of $50 million.[ii]  It would take 16 years and another $224 million to complete the project.  The County of Los Angeles provided the land and $116 million in funding toward a six-level subterranean parking garage beneath Gehry’s building.   By the mid 1990’s, after years of sagging economy, the garage was the only complete portion of the project—capped with a  vacant slab of concrete.[iii] Enter Eli Broad and his fundraising partner-in-crime, Mayor Richard Riordan.  Both men personally contributed $5 million to revive the building campaign, and Broad helmed the fundraising effort and raised an additional $120 million dollars from private and corporate contributors in three years.[iv] Walt Disney Concert Hall finally opened in 2003.

Another Broad beneficiary located on Grand Avenue is Central Los Angeles Area High School #9, now called the Ramon C. Corteines School of Visual and Performing Arts. In 2001, Broad had encouraged school officials to build an architectural statement and create a school focused on visual and performing arts education, rather than the originally planned, modestly-priced, $87 million campus.[v]  Broad initially agreed to contribute to the project, but later threatened to withhold funding if the school did not operate as a charter high school as he saw fit.[vi]  The campus welcomed its first class in 2009 with a price tag of roughly $230 million.  Broad’s mission with the High School was accomplished: another architectural monument and another piece of Grand Avenue complete.

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Introduction (Part 2): The Veil, the Vault and the Avenue

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“The museum’s ‘veil’ lifts at its corners, welcoming visitors in.”[i]
– Elizabeth Diller, Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, architects, The Broad

Conceptual Rendering of the “Veil and the Vault” by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Conceptual Rendering of the “Veil and the Vault” by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

The new, $100 million museum will be called The Broad, after its founder, local philanthropist Eli Broad.  The sure-to-be-iconic building houses 50,000 square feet of exhibition and storage space for the Broad collections, and is designed by world-renowned architecture firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro.  It will be located on Grand Avenue in downtown, and will sit directly across from both Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).  It is a testament to Broad’s generosity and also to his ability to negotiate a public-private project. Read the rest of this entry »

Richard Serra, “Sequence”

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SFMOMA, Cantor Arts Center, LACMA

This week, SFMOMA released additional renderings of its eminent expansion including new views of the interior.  Snohetta (the chic, Norwegian architects) and SFMOMA haven’t been apologetic or really skirted the issue about plans to basically gut the entire existing building, keeping only Mario Botta’s  postmodern façade.  Climbing SFMOMA’s imposing stairs is literally my first memory of being in a museum.  As a kid, I tried to recreate the alternating bands of polished and flame-finished black granite of these stairs with a set of sleek dominoes on my living room floor.   A friend and I lamented the demise of Botta’s staircase the last time we visited SFMOMA and we brainstormed potential artist projects that might utilize the soon-to-be-dismantled stairs.  (The SFMOMA expansion is going to be LEED Certified so maybe some of the black stone will be reclaimed.)

Sequence at SFMOMA of the future.

“Sequence” at SFMOMA of the future.

Alas, the released images show all of this will be eliminated in the expansion, sacrificed for the sake of greater street presence and improved openness to pedestrian traffic flow.  (The $555 million expansion will also double the current amount of gallery space, so there is that.)  New public space includes a multi-storied, glass-fronted gallery open to Howard Street.  In the renderings, this gallery space is filled with a massive Richard Serra corten-steel sculpture.  This isn’t just a filler “scalie” artwork; Serra’s Sequence (2006) will be installed in the new space when the Snohetta expansion opens in 2016.  Sequence is part of the Fisher collection, the donors who generous donated many buckets of ducats for the expansion, and who are kinda-sorta donating their incomparable trove of contemporary art to the museum.

Sequence on Howard Street.

“Sequence” on Howard Street.

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House

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Starchitecture

Textile Bricks.

Recognize this image?  You might, it’s been featured in numerous movies.  On the right is a concrete textile block from the Ennis House in Loz Feliz, on the left is what the brick originally looked like.  Suffice to say this brick, and the Ennis House at large needs lots of conservation, and I’m not just a little nip tuck.  How much is this browlift going to cost?—Well a bunch of stabilization work was done by the Ennis House Foundation to keep the house from slipping down the hill, but there is still an additional $5-7 million needed.  The additional conservation cost is probably the reason why the house sold for WAY below its initial asking price.  The Ennis House Foundation made the decision to sell the house to a private owner way back in June 2009 and put it on the market for $15 million.  There weren’t any biters, so in February 2010, the price was chopped to $10.5 million.  Still no takers, and another chop in May 2010 to $7.5 million.  The Ennis House has sat on the market at the price since.  Until last week when it was announced that supermarket magnate Ron Burke had purchased the Ennis House for just under $4.5 million.  Thanks Ron, one more price cut, and it could have been in my price range.  (Yes, all of these links have been to curbed, and here’s another one, full of pretty pictures.)

And in case you still don’t recognize the Ennis House, here are some of the Ennis House’s onscreen appearances:

21st Century apartment.

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King Abdulaziz Center for Knowledge and Culture

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AAM Conference Expo

Everyone knows the United Arab Emirates are going through some serious development.  Dubai first captured my imagination when “The World” was featured (years ago) on Vh1’s Fabulous Life Of series.  Currently Abu Dhabi and Qatar (not an emirate) are going head-to-head to see who can build the most and more lavish museums.  In Doha, Qatar, there is the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I.M. Pei, and the National Museum designed by Jean Nouvel. In the other corner is Abu Dhabi where a whole island of museums is being constructed.  Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island (now just a glorified sandbar) will get not only a Performing Arts Centre designed by Zaha Hadid, and a Foster+Partners-designed Zayed National Museum, but also a branch of the Guggenheim (designed of course by Frank Gehry), and a branch of the Louvre (also designed by Nouvel).  I wrote a piece about an artists’ boycott of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi over immigrant labors rights, or lack thereof.  You can read the whole story here.

Starchitecture face-off!

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