I finally did it. I swallowed my pride and returned to the LACMA after a falling out that produced this prodigal art viewer. I think too highly of myself and the LACMA and the director, and for that matter, Mr. Broad, continued their work, completely unaware of my absence. I, however, stewed in it, tapping my foot and withholding my money in a futile attempt to protest recent decisions.
It gets a little bit sticky, you see, so we will start at the beginning. The seed was planted at the Dia at Beacon in upstate New York. The trip away from the city was nice, necessary. The scenery was beautiful, the art collection immaculate. It was quiet and peaceful and, though the gallery was full, the experience felt very private. I rather enjoyed it, minus the beautiful, copious space devoted solely to Flavin’s fluorescent lights. His concept is solid, to paint a space with light, but his execution gets under my skin. It reads as tacky no matter how many retrospectives I go to. So, I’m in the Dia, trying every angle to see if I may just take a shine to Flavin after all. This director has put a lot of stock in him, i might give him a fighting chance. When you boil it down, countless light and space artists set after and achieved Flavin’s goal with much more grace, see James Turrell.
Fast forward to the present day scandal, in my eyes, at the LACMA. When the acting director, Andrea Rich, stepped down, more on that to come, Michael Govan took her place, the curator from the DIA. His Flavin fetish still fresh in my mind, I was skeptical. His first big move as curator? A Dan Flavin retrospective that turned out to be more a rave than about the art. His interview with James Turrell was awkward and silly and I wondered, if this was his job, shouldn’t he be more comfortable speaking with artists? Granted Turrell, in all his greatness, is intimidating, but the greats are a part of Michael Govan’s every day work.
Having purged myself of all reasons why I have turned my back on the LACMA I will bring you up to speed on why I finally visited. Eli Broad, the man behind the curtain, the largest patron of the LACMA had donated an estimated $56 million wing of the museum that he hoped would make Los Angeles a fighting player in the world of contemporary art. In a surprising move, he pulled his assumed promise of his 2,000 work collection, at the last minute. Since the building donned his name it was expected that his entire collection of very prominent work would belong to the LACMA. He countered with the argument that he didn’t want a collection as rich as his to be put away in storage. Valid point. The LACMA still had first pick as to the pieces they wanted to show and the rest would be shopped around the globe.
In another interesting twist in this tabloid-like story of patron and directors, it was alleged that Andrea Rich had stepped down over disputes with puppeteer Broad. They both commented publicly that her choice to leave was simply because it was time. By then, the curtain had been pulled back, the patron had been spotlighted and this story was getting too interesting to ignore.
This tasty bit of soap opera occurred over a year ago and I was tantalized, but put off by the turn for the drama and decided to focus my viewing elsewhere. While I hit up small galleries, made friends at The Brewery, and discovered new talent, I kept hearing story after story of greatness hanging on the walls at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum. I resisted when I heard of the small room dedicated to Andy Worhol with a soup can original and all. I felt a pull when I caught a whisper of Cindy Sherman. But when I saw a photo of a friend standing inside a Richard Sera, I went the next day.
Richard Sera is an experience you must have at least once in your life. He creates these monumental sized metal sculptures that absolutely envelope you. When standing inside one it feels as though you are standing next to a ship, whose sheer size and power could squash you. Here are my instructions for getting the most out of one of these sculptures. When you approach it, much like a maze, walk around it until you find the opening and head on in, it’s o.k., I promise. When you walk in keep your eyes up to the ceiling. His walls of metal dip in then swerve out giving you an unbelievable rush of movement mixed with fear and awe. There is just no feeling like a Sera in the world. Make your way to the middle “room” and soak in all the space. Run your hand along the surface and allow yourself to contemplate the impossibility of creating such a piece.
While the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, has an impressive contemporary collection to boot, which is definitely worth the visit, it is the Richard Sera’s on the bottom floor that make this museum a staple in the contemporary art world. The pieces are huge and doubtfully headed anywhere soon, but you must see them, now.
Small Disclaimer: While the instructions I gave you are imperative for truly experiencing these pieces, some gallery guards may think otherwise. My theory, do until they tell you don’t. Legend has it a Richard Sera collapsed and killed someone once, so guards are cautious to let you dive in. But if you’re going to breathe your last, in my opinion, there is no better way than by Richard Sera.