The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) celebrated its 50th birthday last weekend, throwing a fittingly fabulous party that outdid the Oscars and raised $5 million for acquisitions. More importantly, the museum was also given (and promised) some magnificent birthday presents — generously donated by the city’s growing community of world-class collectors and patrons.
Left: Laura Paulson of Christie's with Conor Jordan © Jonathan Leibson Right: Barbra Streisand © Charley Gallay
These wonderful birthday presents will be shown as part of the aptly titled 50 for 50 (from 26 April), a commemorative exhibition to include works by Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and George Segal — along with Warhol’s seminal Two Marilyns. Masterpieces from the further reaches of art history include pieces by Ingres, Giambologna, Bernini and Francois Boucher and, as if that weren’t enough, Christ Blessing, the first Hans Memling to enter the collection.
Left: LACMA Trustee Ryan Seacrest, LACMA Trustee and Gala Co-Chair Ann Colgin, Ben Silverman © Charley Gallay. Right: Artist Ed and Danna Ruscha, artists Bill Viola and Kira Perov © Charley Gallay
And there are yet more presents to be unwrapped: 19th century works include Monet’s Two Women in a Garden (1872-3), with additional pieces by Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Vuillard. Other highlights include the 18th-century Serpent Headdress from the Baga peoples, Guinea and Vija Celmin’s seminal l964 painting T.V. , not to mention Red Concave Circle (1970) by L.A.’s very own DeWain Valentine, also joining the collection.
LACMA Trustee Ryan Seacrest, LACMA Trustee and Gala Co-Chair Lynda Resnick, LACMA Director Michael Govan © Donato Sardella
The party featured a vast cross-section of Los Angelenos, from LACMA co-chairs Ann Colgin, Jane Nathanson and Lynda Resnick, to trustees Carole Bayer Sager, Ryan Seacrest and Wendy Stark Morrissey. Artists in attendance included Mark Grotjahn, Bill Viola, Barbara Kruger and Ed Ruscha, with entertainers including Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman and Anjelica Huston representing ‘Old L.A’.
Artist Doug Aitken and Han Ulrich Obrist © Stefanie Keenan
All this hoo-ha is significant: LACMA’s 50th anniversary celebrations are proof that Los Angeles has come of age as a major — and increasingly important — hub in the art world. It’s no wonder that more and more young contemporary artists are moving out west, joining more seasoned residents such as Ed Ruscha and Paul McCarthy.
Left: Artist DeWain Valentine, Almine Ruiz-Picasso © Charley Gallay. Right: Anjelica Huston, Liev Schreiber © Donato Sardella
The miners of the 19th century were attracted by L.A.’s gold; the silent film titans of the last century, its endless sunshine. Now, something quite different is attracting contemporary artists — and it isn’t an invitation to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Los Angeles offers a certain freedom and difference: looking over its shoulder to Latin America, and out west across the Pacific. It is another America.
This is not the slightly tired, inward-looking land of the East, nor is it the business-focused, fly-over territory that is the Midwest. L.A. is far more than the glitzy Hollywood machine; it is much bigger than that. It is Oceanic and Hispanic America; a 21st century America. This is the land of infinite possibility, with an atmosphere that is entirely its own — and a world-class museum to match.
Happy birthday, LACMA!
L.A.’s urban geodes
Urban Geodes by Paige Smith
These sparkling little geodes in secret corners of L.A. are the work of artist and sculptor Paige Smith, AKA a common name, who uses paper, spray paint and lots of glitter to create the illusion of crystallised rock formations, sprouting forth in odd nooks and crannies all over downtown. A much larger urban geode can be seen crawling along the walls of L.A.’s Maker Gallery — but to my mind, the tiny sneak street examples are awfully effective.
Main image at top: LACMA’s 50th birthday celebrations © Charley Gallay
Explore our archive of Antenna Columns. For more features, interviews and videos, see our Christie’s Daily homepage