Exhibition Inquisition

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

Posts Tagged ‘LA Times

Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve

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Restitution Issue: Norton Simon Museum

Adam and Eve, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder in c. 1530, are a pair of panel paintings currently on view in Pasadena, at the Norton Simon Museum.  There hasn’t been an update on the painted pair since October, but the ownership of the Adam and Eve remains an unresolved dispute.  Marei Von Saher is the daughter-in-law of Jacques Goudstikker, a previous owner of the Adam and Eve.  During the 1940s, Goudstikker fled Holland and was forced to sell the panels to the Nazis under duress.  The issue of restitution would seem clear if this case was that simple.  A questionable, century-long provenance and a legal tangle both complicate the case.  Let’s explore.

Adam and Eve have hung at the Norton Simon since 1977.

Norton Simon bought the Cranach panels from George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff , a Russian, in 1971.  Stroganoff-Scherbatoff was the heir of an aristocratic family who claimed to have owned the paintings prior to 1917.  Stroganoff-Scherbatoff received/bought the paintings from the Dutch Government in a restitution agreement in 1966.  The Dutch Government was restituted the paintings (remember Goudstikker fled Holland during WWII) after WWII.  The Nazis forced Goudstikker to sell them in the 1940s.  Goudstikker had bought the paintings from the Soviet government at an auction in 1931.  The Russian government had confiscated Adam and Eve from the family of Stroganoff-Scherbatoff prior to 1917.  Seems like a resolved case of restitution: Russian heir gets stolen paintings back and then sells them to a collector (Norton Simon).

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Cult Statue of a Goddess (aka Aidone Aphrodite, aka Venus of Morgantina)

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Restitution Issue: J. Paul Getty Museum

Sure LA is hot right now with contemporary art, but some of its older holdings are getting a lot of press.  I’ve decided to take a minor tangent from exhibition critique and do a series of posts on issues of restitution in major LA institutions.  Some of these issues have been resolved, some are still being disputed, and some aren’t even creating waves (at the moment at least).

Now you see her, now you see something else.

At the end of 2010, a small party was held at the Getty Villa in Malibu.  This event wasn’t exactly a celebration; it was a farewell party.  The Getty finally had to say goodbye to the now infamous Cult Statue of a Goddess.  The larger-than-life-sized acrolithic sculpture had dominated the “Gods and Goddesses” room of the Getty Villa as long as I can remember.  Even though I knew she’d be gone by the time I got back to LA, I still wasn’t prepared to miss her so much.  In her place the Getty has placed the Mazarin Venus, a smaller and less-clothed sculpture.  While she is pretty, she doesn’t anchor the room quite like Cult Statue of a Goddess did.  This may just be my biased opinion, but the Mazarin Venus just isn’t as demanding a presence.  This will probably be a temporary issue; according to an LA Times piece: “Karol Wight, the Getty’s chief antiquities curator, said Zeus will be promoted to top star of the “Gods and Goddesses” gallery where the cult statue holds sway. Plans call for reconfiguring the room.”

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Donors: British Petroleum

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My new view: Millennium Park

I have now begun life in Chicago (including being ejected from my first Chicago club), but fear not, I still have a few more, leftover LA posts to write.  I wanted to do a quick post to celebrate my arrival in Chicago and plan on posting semi-regularly about my new city.  I literally know no one in this city, which is why a familiar “face” was appreciated.  I’m talking about the Frank-Gehry-designed Amphitheater and Bridge in Millennium Park.  I get to look out over these beauties daily, so be jealous.

Who paid for this puppy?

The other day I decided to walk around the park, and walked over the bridge.  I had no idea that the sponsor of the bridge was *drum roll* British Petroleum aka BP.  Now BP has been in the news a lot lately because of that little oil spill in the Gulf Coast, you may have heard about it.  Cultural institutions that receive sponsorships from BP have also been feeling the heat, especially in the UK. Back in home in Los Angeles, the LA Times tried to stir some shit over LACMA’s BP Grand Entrance—the big, red, structure behind Urban Light.  I was curious if anyone in Chicago had gotten any shit for the BP bridge in Millennium Park.  I couldn’t find any signs of oil splattered on the bridge so I assume it has remained unharmed and ignored by the mudracking press. (LACMA made a good move by saying to comment.)

LACMA’s BP Grand Entrance installed with Choi Jeong-Hwa’s HappyHappy.

I think it is tremendously important to be aware of the sources of funding for cultural projects and for cultural organizations to remain transparent about their sources of funding.  BP is an evil corporation, obviously, but does that mean our cultural organizations are evil too? Should they be ridiculed for accepting buckets of ducats from less-than-kosher sources of funding?  Let’s stop being so ignorant.  The only reason museums and other cultural organizations turn to these sources of funding is because they can’t function alone from local and federal funding. The public certainly isn’t supporting these organizations either, so I don’t think the public is in a position to be so uppity about organizations taking money from Big Business.

Blood Money?

So I am going to enjoy my BP Bridge, but I’m going to enjoy it without be ignorant.  I am conscious about the sources of money for cultural organizations, and can reconcile this: at least some of the billions of dollars made by the corrupt oil industry are going towards supporting the arts. It could be spent on other things.

– H.I.

P.S. In other news, ExhibitionInquisition has now had over 10,000 views! Not bad for a project that started out as a homework assignment.  Also check out this video (skip to 2:00) the music seems a bit extreme.


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LAPD Headquarters


New Kids on the Block

After reading all of the reviews and discourse in the LA Times about Peter Shelton’s work, I knew I had to scuttle down to 1st and Spring streets to the new LAPD headquarters see what all the hoopla was about.  My mistake was two-fold: because I went at night, and also because when I chose to visit the new public artwork, it was completely surrounded by a temporary fence, which I think was installed to protect the setup for an inaugural event elsewhere on the headquarter grounds.


So I may have climbed up on a barrier to get this picture.

Seeing sixbeaststwomonkeys at night was nice in a way because all of the photos I had seen in the press were taken with lots of daylight.  I think the sculptures really change at night.  Anyone walking around downtown in the dark (no one but me is) should be creeped out by these eerie sculptures (especially the two “monkeys” which look to me like two crazy, long-legged Dali elephants). In terms of installation the works were surprisingly well-lit at night, in that awful municipal lighting that turns everything either black or yellow.  Good for me the sculpture are inky black anyways.


Urban Light is so much prettier.

Each of the eight pieces in the procession of sixbeaststwomonkeys is placed on a raised platform.  The eight platforms break through the long line of the stylobate-like steps that lead from sidewalk level up to the secondary pedestrian pathway.  All of this space functions to distance the building of the headquarters from the street; this construction is all about safety.  But I’m glad they used public art to beautify the space.


Is that your leg?—Oh no, it’s just a railing.

There are some things I did not care for in the installation of these works.  Running around all of the sculpture are railings.  I know these railings are functional, helping people climb the three measly step up, or helping visitors up ramps, but these railings really conflict with the sculptures.  The skinny metal poles of the rails look terrible with the skinny legs of the “monkey” figures.  The formal comparison the two skinny features is ugly.

Another thing I disliked about the installation was the spacing in between the parade of sculptures.  Going south along Spring Street, all the figures were equidistant from one another, but the last “monkey” was drastically separate from the rest.  This spacing was dictated by the service driveway that led up to the building, but it really divided the last “monkey” from his friends.


Driveway that ruined the spacing.

Finally my last issue with the installation of sixbeaststwomonkeys, and a major issue, is the way these sculptures are integrated into the landscaping of the site.  Directly in front of every sculpture is a tree.  And I mean, directly.  These little saplings are fairly short at the moment but they will grow, and their foliage will get fuller.  These plants completely obscure the sculpture from view!


Monkey hiding in a tree.

To be fair, the trees will probably be taller than the “beasts,” but the trees in front of the “monkeys” will completely overpower the sculptures, people on the street, even on the sidewalk won’t even notice the “monkeys.”   My question then is this: Why spend more than a million dollars on public art to decorate a space, if you then go and cover it with trees?

I know there has been much debate over sixbeaststwomonkeys, and that many of the people who work inside the new headquarters dislike it (yes I’m making reference to the “cow splat” comment), but I must say I think these works nicely adorn the contemporary façade of the new building.


Too swanky for a police headquarters, or just swanky enough?

The uneven windows of the building rise up behind the Shelton’s figures twisting the eye upward.  The “beasts” and “monkeys” of this work seem to function differently fro one another.  The “monkeys” operate similarly to the windows of the building, twisting upwards, while the massive “beasts” anchor the work securely to the space.

I think the critics should embrace sixbeaststwomonkeys, and if they don’t it is not as if there are that many pedestrians in that area passing them anyways…


How could you not love this?—It’s so endearing!

– H.I.

Written by exhibitioninquisition

November 3, 2009 at 9:44 AM