There was a moment that took place last week in this community that, if you didn’t witness it, you need to hear about it.
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art right now, in the ground-level hall of the Art of the Americas building, right off the main courtyard, a life-sized, lifelike sculptural installation shows a black man being castrated by a group of five white men wearing cartoonish masks.
When the curators from Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) came calling two years ago, my husband, Ron Magid, had prepared for them a veritable smorgasbord of art by the gothic filmmaker Tim Burton. Among the fare sprawled across our dining room table was a pointy-eared cowl from “Batman,” Jack Skellington storyboards from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and puppets from “The Corpse Bride,” whose ghoulishly charming heroine sprouts a maggot from her eye.
In February, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will unveil the first phase of its renovation and expansion, including the opening of a new building devoted to contemporary art -- the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (that's Broad as in Eli and Edythe Broad, our local Medicis) or, as the acronymists at LACMA have dubbed it, BCAM.
It's a Friday night and an overflow crowd is jammed into the penthouse of the former May Co. store on Wilshire Boulevard -- now Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) West -- to hear a conversation between French journalist and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik.
Presiding over this abundance of intelligence is Paul Holdengräber, the founder and director of LACMA's Institute for Art and Cultures (IAC). Holdengräber is erudite, worldly, self-deprecating and all the more charming for being so, equal parts Joel Grey in "Cabaret," and Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca."
Call me short-sighted and atavistic, but I believe one of the most encouraging bits of news I heard last week was the decision by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to suspend its renovation.
The bad news is Los Angeles will have to wait indefinitely to have a splashier namesake art museum, a Getty-by-the-Tar Pits. The good news is the major donors, many of whom are Jewish, now might be swayed to move some of that museum money over into other communal needs.
Just over one year ago, the museum unveiled a bold plan to overhaul and expand the Wilshire Boulevard institution, according to an architectural design by Rem Koolhaas of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The renovation, which would have involved a downstairs plaza and redesigned upstairs galleries under a tent-like roof, was expected to cost upwards of $400 million.
What is going on at the LA County Museum of Art? The museum's new Institute for Art and Cultures, which convenes painters, poets, artists and performers, writers and thinkers to "address critical issues in the visual arts and culture through rigorous and playful discussions, performances and debates," has landed in our midst and overnight become a central presence. The Institute also happens to be reminding the rest of us that LA Culture exits.
In Eleanor Antin's filmic art installation, "Vilna Nights," ghostly images flicker in the ruined courtyard of a Jewish ghetto. In one window, a woman burns a passel of love letters; in another, a tailor sobs while mending the clothing of murdered children; in a third, hungry children gape as a Chanukah feast materializes, then disappears.
The show is the artist's first major West Coast exhibit in three decades.