LACMA looks a little different from the last time you probably visited: the collections have been mixed up, a significant part of the museum is now a construction site, and one of its galleries has an immersive installation that seems like the kind of place you might run into a B movie murderer, but we’ll get to that later.
The entire eastern half of the museum’s campus, which houses a large part of the permanent collection, began closing in 2019 so construction can begin on a single replacement building. With this part of the property now a dirt pit, its highlights gradually shifted to the two buildings in the western half which were usually reserved for special exhibits.
Most notably, this now includes the reopening of LACMA’s Modern Art Collection, a freshly arranged and revamped version of which debuts to the public Sunday on the third floor of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum. The BCAM presentation is not permanent, as the pieces will eventually be on display in the amoeba-shaped building under construction at LACMA, but the opening is not scheduled until 2024.
Whether scrapping the old campus in favor of its upcoming and controversial replacement will be the right decision in the long term yet, we cannot really say yet, but we can say with certainty that the modern art exhibition presented in This moment in the bright BCAM, the spacious galleries are an undeniable improvement over the grim, creaky boundaries of the old Ahmanson building, where most of the works were once housed. The whole thing is accompanied by a new audio tour and a few pairs of soundtracks curated by dublab (just BYO headphones for now). Additionally, Senior Curator Stephanie Barron and Assistant Curator Katia Zavistovski have managed to tie tons of context to the non-linear journey of twentieth century art and incorporate more modernists than are glued to tote bags. .
The floor is split in two, with modern art on one side and contemporary on the other (the beautifully colored David Hockney Mulholland Drive: the studio road connects the two with a half-hour film of LACMA’s exhibitions through the decades). Everything is organized in a vaguely chronological way, so you will start with works by Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti and Henri Matisse before moving on to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Helen Frankenthaler and Jakcson Pollock, then finally local of the luminaries. like John Baldessari, Judy Chicago, David Hammons, Ed Ruscha and Betye Saar. This only hints at the full list of the more than 250 works of around 200 artists on display here, which were drawn mostly from the old Ahmanson building, with additional selections that were once in the Art of the Americas building. and even pieces that I rarely left the archives.
The didactics associated with most of the pieces manage to extend the sometimes short-sighted mythology of modern art without gnawing away precious wall space. Brief passages on women in early 20th-century Germany, Paris’ role as a link between international avant-garde artists and the Southern California assemblage movement provide just enough context for connect the corner of the gallery as you explore. And at the room level, regulars and first-time visitors alike should be able to come away with a better understanding of what they are seeing.
Take, for example, Picasso, whose 20 works now occupy an entire gallery. In terms of palatability, Picasso may seem mild enough to art lovers, but his late period paintings in particular can be a bit spicy for some museum enthusiasts. At surface level, the wall text next to about half of the canvases deciphers some of the painter’s most surreal pieces. But education is not afraid either of Picasso’s colonialist commitments with African culture or of his abusive treatment of women; the text for bust of a seated woman, portrait of one of his mistresses, quotes his granddaughter Marina, describing how he “crushed them on his canvas” before getting rid of his lovers, while Man and woman reaffirms that, yes, it is indeed a pretty phallic sword stabbing a woman’s genitals.
But let’s move on to more edifying territory and talk about the murder garage. Okay, it’s not really called that, but the blown tire car, rusty tools, and a dummy arm chandelier certainly make the dimly lit hangar look like it came straight out of a horror movie. In fact, Michael C. McMillen Central Meridian (Le Garage) is a remarkably detailed walkthrough that uses mid-century trash to create an air laden with the smells of oil cans and personal history; he conjures up an image of his owner without ever seeing him in person.
The piece premiered at LACMA in 1981 and has not been exhibited for 20 years. Since then, the museum has not shied away from successful immersive installations, whether through yellow and blue spaghetti, the permanent acquisition of Rain room or, to paraphrase Drake, fucking with Turrell. But compared to other performing arts in the city, the narrow and dark limits of The garage feel like a space without a selfie to lose yourself in.
LACMA’s new modern art presentation opens to the public on June 13. Advance tickets are currently required to visit the museum, and they cost $ 20 for LA County residents (who can also visit for free after 3 p.m. on weekdays). Check out some more photos from the show below.