Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Modern Museums

I love museums.  I love science museums, history museums, art museums.  I even love those one room county museums that seem to be addicted to displaying old beer bottles.

If the leadership of LACMA, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has it's way, the core buildings of the museum will be torn down and a brand new gallery will replace them.  I won't comment on the design.  The photo of the model that I've seen isn't really good enough to have even a vague opinion.  Nevertheless, I think it's a bad idea.

From what I've been able to find out, (And this information is all rather preliminary, and may be inaccurate.) the new core building, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, will have approximately the same display space as the buildings it will replace.  It makes me wonder, exactly,  what  is LACMA's mission?  It's a county museum, that attempts to show an over view of world art.  It's not a museum that's dedicated to a single artist, artistic movement, or a particular regional art.  Too, Los Angeles is a city with many wealthy arts patrons who can be tapped for both money and donations of art work.   But without increased space, LACMA is stalled in what it can show the public.

Go to the LACMA website and click collections.  The museum has a large photography collection that isn't being displayed.  The Robert Gore Rifken collection of German expressionistic art is good sized, but only a small fraction of it can be seen at one time because of space restrictions.  And why would a wealthy, Los Angeles art collector donate  his or her collection when there is no space to display it?

It seems to me,  rather then spending an estimated $650 million on a new building at the mid-Wilshire museum location, it would make more sense to build a new gallery at another location.  Had LACMA's attempt to take over the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A. gone through, the county museum would have been operating two buildings a t a remote location.  So why not save the space that's already at the main campus and build somewhere else?

In the same issue of the Los Angeles Times that published the photograph of Zumthor's model, there was a story about an abandoned building in Compton.  It was a church designed by modernist architect,  Rudolph Schindler. It's boarded up and covered in graffiti.  LACMA administration should reject the notion that museums should be built in upscale neighborhoods with chic shops, restaurants, and an abundance of hip, young, urbanites.  Land would be cheap in Compton, and a new art museum that also preserves a Schindler building...well, why not?  Why not build next to the Watts Towers or in an industrial space along the L.A. River?

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