Ruscha Tops List of Most Expensive Living West Coast Artists

Ed Ruscha, Burning Gas Station (1965-66), (via

Ed Ruscha, Burning Gas Station (1965-66), (via

The numbers are in and Ed Ruscha tops the list of the 10 Most Expensive Living West Coast Artists, according to ArtNet. His Burning Gas Station (1965-66) sold for almost $7 million at Christie’s in 2007. The rest of the list is dominated by L.A.-based artists and includes punk pioneer Raymond Pettibon, master of the abject Paul McCarthy, delightful oddball Charles Ray, and conceptual art godfather John Baldessari.

Paul McCarthy, Tomato head (Green) (1994), sold for $4,562,500 in 2011 (via

Paul McCarthy, Tomato head (Green) (1994), sold for $4,562,500 in 2011 (via

Paintings are unsurprisingly well represented, ranging from Two Jackpots (2005) by Wayne Thiebaud (who got his start at Disney), to abstract paintings by established L.A. natives Mark Grotjahn and Mark Bradford, to a massive spray-painted canvas by young turk Sterling Ruby. Ruscha’s Ferus Gallery associate Robert Irwin rounds out the list at #10, with a minimal painting of his from 1963-64 that sold for a little over $1 million at Christie’s in 2008. These figures are still quite modest compared to the highest-selling lot by a living artist, Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange), which sold for $58.4 million last year.

Sterling Ruby, SP231 (2013), sold for $1,785,000 in 2013 (via

Sterling Ruby, SP231 (2013), sold for $1,785,000 in 2013 (via

It should be noted that Artnet based their rankings not on overall sales or even average auction sales, but on the single most expensive piece sold by each artist at auction. Although this would seem to give outliers (and Russian oligarchs) outsize influence over the results, an artist’s value is still largely determined by their auction record, despite the opacity of the auction market.

The results are also further evidence of the gender and racial imbalance of the art market – all of the artists listed above are male and nine are white. After Micol Hebron finishes with her gender tally of the gallery scene, perhaps she should turn her attention to Sotheby’s and Christie’s?

“Social Pool” opens in Mojave Desert

(via LA Times / Alfredo Barsuglia)

(via LA Times / Alfredo Barsuglia)

If you’re an Angeleno who wants to cool off this summer with a dip in the pool, but aren’t lucky enough to have access to one, you’re in luck — provided you have a car, a full tank of gas, a GPS, and don’t mind wandering around the Mojave Desert, that is.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, Austrian artist Alfredo Barsuglia’s Social Pool recently opened somewhere in the 25,000 square mile sprawling desert east of L.A. The eleven-by-five foot micro pool is open to the public, however it’s locked and the location is a secret. The only way to get the key is to stop by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in West Hollywood, where you can obtain the GPS coordinates as well. The key can’t be reserved and if you’re lucky enough to get it, you only have 24 hours to make it to the desert and back before it must be returned. Furthermore the pool is not terribly “social,” in that the artist intends it for use by “only one person or small party at a time.” Each person who visits is also required to bring a gallon of water to maintain the level in the pool. Barsuglia certainly isn’t making this easy.

Which seems to be the point. Whereas seminal works of land art like Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field, or Michael Heizer’s Double Negative are similarly hard to get to, they offer a sublime experience specific to their natural surroundings. Barsuglia’s work on the other hand is no different than the thousands of pools littering the backyards of Southern California, only much smaller. In this sense, Social Pool is a commentary on the absurdity of contemporary excess. “When you are there by the pool,” he told the LA Times, “I think you really understand what a luxury this is and you start to ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Perhaps some people might feel that this is not something they need to do.” For those who do feel like it’s worth it, the pool is open through September 30th.

Jeffrey Deitch to Partner with Grammy Museum for EDM Show

image via

image via

He’s back: a year after resigning his position as director of MOCA, Jeffrey Deitch has reportedly partnered with Los Angeles’ Grammy Museum to curate an exhibition on Electronic Dance Music (what the kids call EDM), according to the Wall Street Journal. They are planning to open the traveling show at a large warehouse space in L.A. next spring, followed by stops in Las Vegas, New York, Paris, London, and Berlin.

Visitors can expect to see documentation of EDM culture (we’re thinking photos of furry-booted, pupil-dilated revelers), as well as objects from the history of dance music sure to delight the gear heads out there (deadmau5’s thumb drive perhaps?). Live musical performances will also be part of the show. Oh, and there will actually be some art by the likes of Andreas Gursky, Ben Jones, Takeshi Murata and others.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Deitch announced in 2012 that he would be organizing a disco show at MOCA, titled “Fire in the Disco,” to be co-curated with dance-rocker James Murphy of the now defunct LCD Soundsystem. This was the final straw for many who felt that Deitch’s tenure at MOCA was symbolic of “the shift in nearly all our museums from a focus on long-range scholarly, curatorial, and educational functions to an obsession with the box office.” John Baldessari cited the announcement of the disco show as one of the contributing factors in his decision to resign from the Museum’s board.

Deitch did receive some recognition for bringing MOCA back from the edge of financial ruin with blockbuster shows like 2010’s “Art in the Streets,” but the emphasis he placed on pop-culture entertainment threatened to overshadow the museum’s role as a space for critical engagement with art. His new partnership with the Grammy Museum seems to be a better fit, allowing him to unabashedly pursue spectacle without the risk of offending delicate sensibilities and/or compromising the institution’s central function.


Citing Tar Pits, Zumthor Redraws LACMA Plan

via the New York Times

The Amoeba Has Morphed. [via the New York Times / Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partners]

One of the nice things about designing a museum that looks like an ink blot is that entire sections can be redrawn without completely scrapping the original plan. Such is the case with Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s proposed transformation of LACMA, according to the New York Times. His original design had been criticized by the Page Museum for impinging on the neighboring La Brea tar pits, which are still an active paleontological site. Museum officials were worried that the buildings’ overhang would block the sun and rain from reaching vegetation surrounding the pits. Competing with the pits was not something LACMA intended, says LACMA director Michael Govan, especially considering Zumthor’s design echoes their black and curvilinear forms.

The new design pulls the museum back from the pits and instead stretches it across Wilshire Boulevard. A quarter of the 400,000 square foot structure will now be placed on the south side of Wilshire, on the site of a parking lot owned by the museum. The original design called for the structure to be lifted off the ground on pylons, so straddling Wilshire, while a significant change, is not as radical as it might seem.

Considering that other institutions have recently turned a deaf ear to critics when planning expansions (Lowry & Co., this means you), it is encouraging that LACMA showed some consideration for their neighbor. Zumthor’s plan does call for the elimination of the original William Pereira building and a 1986 addition, but it is arguable whether these are worth saving. The real question now will be whether LACMA is able to raise the $650 million necessary to turn his design into a reality.

Bergamot Station Re-Development Plan Turns Ugly

[via Santa Monica Daily Press]

When the L.A. Metro Expo Line station opens next to Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station in early 2016, it will provide a cheap and easy way for thousands of Angelenos to visit the arts center. While this may seem like a boon for the galleries there, residents are divided over the accompanying redevelopment plans, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Bergamot Station Gallery Cultural Association, made up of over forty galleries and organizations located there, recently drew up a petition requesting that “City of Santa Monica Officials cease plans for redevelopment until the survival of the core tenants of Bergamot Station is ensured.” It currently has 10,500 signatures. As they see it, the three development proposals currently under consideration — all calling for a hotel, retail, underground parking, and an expansion of the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMOA) — would disrupt business during construction, and worse, turn the complex into a Grove-like shopping mall.

The SMMOA unsurprisingly declined to sign the petition. The $92-million proposal currently favored by the city’s economic development department involves a new museum built by Rios Clementi Hale Studios, thereby doubling its current space to 20,000 square feet. In a retaliatory move, the museum’s landlord, Wayne Blank, has tripled their rent due to “what he considers its disruptive and unneighborly vision for Bergamot Station.” Blank also owns Bergamot’s Shoshana Wayne Gallery and was a partner in a competing development deal until he resigned, now calling for the rejection of all proposals.

Development is obviously not a bad thing per se, but none of these proposals is convincingly right for Bergamot. The city has called for 100 percent retention of current tenants, but is that a good thing? (And is it even feasible, given that these small businesses will have to contend with a major construction project at their front doors?) Further, the emphasis on an underground parking structure seems misguided, when the new Metro extension should be promoted as a car-free way to visit the arts complex. Other gallery clusters (Culver City, Chinatown) have thrived in the city without massive parking structures, hotels, or upscale retail. Although its luster may have faded some as newer, hipper art scenes pop up, Bergamot still boasts the largest concentration of galleries in the Western US. While some may argue correctly that quantity does not equal quality, it still houses notable examples of the old guard, like Rosamund Felsen and Craig Krull. If supporters of the development proposal aim to amplify Bergamot’s role as a vibrant cultural center, it seems unlikely that adding a Louis Vuitton or Prada boutique will do the trick. If anything, it will hasten its decline into becoming an upscale shopping mall, echoing a similar fate that befell SoHo twenty years ago.

New DTLA Museum Planned for Old Bank District, Literalizes Connection Between Art and Money

Courtesy Tom Wiscombe Architecture (Via the Architect's Newspaper)

Courtesy Tom Wiscombe Architecture (Via the Architect’s Newspaper)

It used to be that philanthropists, art collectors, and curators had a hand in founding museums. Now a property developer and an architect want in on the action. The Architect’s Newspaper reports that developer Tom Gilmore and architect Tom Wiscombe are planning to create a sprawling contemporary art museum in three adjacent bank buildings in downtown Los Angeles’ Old Bank District. Its name? The Old Bank District Museum.

Most of the exhibition spaces will be underground, including over half a dozen bank vaults. They plan to preserve relics like “old pneumatic tubes, submarine doors, and old mechanical equipment,” presumably for that perfect steampunk vibe. The are also planning a rooftop sculpture garden, and have already placed a steel sculpture inspired by the late architectural renegade Lebbeus Woods atop one of the buildings. But what will be between the basement and the roof? Artnet’s Benjamin Sutton offers a guess: “given Gilmore’s day job…high-end condos seem like a safe bet.” Demolition is expected to begin next month, with construction to commence next year, and an opening slated for 2017.

Questions as to who will be running the museum, who will be on the board, what artists will be featured and whether there will even be a collection remain unanswered. However, according to Sam Lubell, Gilmore said the collection “will tilt toward the deviant, up-and-coming variety, an antidote to established museums and philanthropy,” which we can presume is a jab aimed at MOCA and the forthcoming Broad only a few blocks away.

To some, a property development-cum-museum in one of L.A.’s most contested gentrification battlegrounds might seem like a problematic proposition. To those skeptics, Gilmore provides a response without a trace of irony: “I want to lock in the context, not let it be destroyed in favor of commerce.”

Hauser Wirth & Schimmel Announces New Arts District Location

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

[via Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection]

Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, the art supergroup composed of two parts international mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth and one part former MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel, announced on Friday their new location in Los Angeles’ arts district, according to the Los Angeles Times. Schimmel’s merger with Hauser & Wirth was announced last May, almost a year after his controversial departure from MOCA after 22 years as curator there.

Located at 901 E. 3rd street, the massive, 100,000-square-foot complex of seven buildings includes a 19th century former flour mill and a 20,000-square-foot interior courtyard. It will open in January of next year with a group exhibition of L.A. gallery artists before closing for a yearlong overhaul. When it re-opens in 2016, it will offer “a new paradigm for the 21st century art gallery,” according to the organizers’ rather majestic statement, and will include spaces for both commercial and non-commercial exhibitions, artist studios, a bookstore, restaurant and bar.

As more commercial galleries branch out into “museum-type” shows, the lines between dealers and curators (and museum directors) become more fluid. This raises interesting ethical quandaries when, for instance, the non-profit wing of a for-profit gallery mounts an exhibition of one of their stable of artists, conferring upon them institutional acceptance and financial viability. Although always intertwined to some extent, this “new paradigm” aligns the twin poles of commerce and scholarship in a potentially problematic relationship. Throw a bookstore and a bar into this mix, and all you need is an ice rink and you’ve got yourself an arty shopping mall. (No word yet on when the Rick Owens store will go in.)

The gallery will join a handful of other art spaces in L.A.’s newest burgeoning gallery cluster, stretching from the arts district south along the L.A. River. Neighbors will include relative old-timers like The Box and more recent additions 356 Mission Road and art bookstore Ooga Booga’s second location. A couple of miles to the south, young upstarts Night Gallery, and The Mistake Room, as well as Culver City mainstay François Ghebaly’s sprawling new location make this area, full of warehouse spaces perfect for monumental work, a destination to watch.

Nobody Puts Eli in a Corner: Broad Sues over Pokey Panels

broadexteriorAccording to the New York Times, Billionaire art collector Eli Broad filed a $19.8 million lawsuit Friday against German company Seele Inc., for delays in fabricating the building blocks for the façade of his eponymous museum. Construction on the $140 million project, designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro, began in 2012. Originally slated to open mid-2014, then pushed back to the year’s end, the museum will now open sometime in 2015.

This is not the first setback regarding the façade, which was originally designed to be a load-bearing structure made of pre-cast concrete. When this proved too costly and heavy, a primarily decorative glass-fiber-reinforced concrete design was substituted. The complex honeycomb-like lattice, commonly referred to as the “veil,” will wrap around the building, and is punctured by an “oculus” through which Broad can survey City Hall and the MOCA across the street, like Emperor Palpatine in the Death Star.


According to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Seele failed to “deliver a product that was not ‘mere Tiffany,’ but ‘Cartier’ quality.” Members of the 99% will no doubt be disappointed to hear that the aspirational brand with the signature blue box does not meet billionaire standards. The firm has previously contributed to Rem Koolhaas’ Seattle Public Library, Renzo Piano’s New York Times headquarters, Herzog and de Meuron’s olympic “Bird’s Nest” stadium in Beijing. and several Apple stores.

L.A.’s own Medici, a “feared and admired dictator,” Broad has been a major player in the Los Angeles art scene for years. He donated $60 million to LACMA in 2003 for the construction of a contemporary wing bearing his name, and saved MOCA in 2008 with $30 million pledge. When it finally opens, the Broad will house 2000 works of post-war and contemporary art from his and his wife Edythe’s collection.

Made in L.A. Sneak Peek

madeinla2014The Hammer Museum has recently released a sneak peek video for their second biennial Made in L.A. exhibition. The show’s co-curators, Hammer chief curator Connie Butler and independent critic and curator Michael Ned Holte, have selected a tight group of 35 artists, down from 60 in 2012. Focusing on “emerging and under-recognized artists” from L.A., the exhibition will feature a cross section of painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and as befits L.A., film and video.

An encouraging alternative to the gender disparity currently on view elsewhere in the art world, about half of the participants are women. The curators have also sought to highlight the role of alternative and artist-run spaces in LA, such as Lauren Mackler’s Public Fiction gallery and press, micro-gallery the Los Angeles Museum of Art, and DIY radio station KCHUNG. Other participants include androgynous filmmaker and performer Wu Tsang (whose recent Houston performance was covered by Glasstire), Channing Hansen (brother of Beck and grandson of Fluxus pioneer Al Hansen), cross-disciplinary artist and “queer eco-feminist” A.L. Steiner, and octogenarian painter Marcia Hafif, who has been producing sensuous, elegant variations on the monochrome for over 40 years. The curators also give a nod to the current ceramics revival (looking at you Sterling Ruby) with the inclusion of Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Michael Frimkess, who have been working in the medium since before most of their successors were in short pants. Also notable is the selection of mixed-media paintings by the late Tony Greene, who died of AIDS in 1990. His work was also selected by Catherine Opie and Richard Hawkins for inclusion in this year’s Whitney Biennial.

Made in L.A. will also feature two jury awards worth $100,000 and $25,000, as well a third award for $25,000, the winner of which will be selected by the public. (2012’s exhibition had only one $100,000 prize, for which a jury selected 5 finalists, who were then voted on by the public.)

With current discussions about the bland “biennalization” of biennials and their empty appeals to globalization, perhaps the solution lies in looking at the varied and heterogeneous art being produced in one locale. We will find out if Made in L.A. is able to deliver on this potential when it opens on June 15.

Wu Tsang, Mishima in Mexico, 14 minutes, HD Video, 2012. With Alexandro Segade

Wu Tsang, Mishima in Mexico, 14 minutes, HD Video, 2012. With Alexandro Segade

Helen Molesworth Appointed as MOCA’s new Chief Curator


The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles announced on Friday that Helen Molesworth has been selected as their new Chief Curator. Her appointment will begin on September 1st 2014.

Molesworth comes to Los Angeles from the Institute of Contemporary Arts / Boston where she had served as the Barbara Lee Chief Curator since 2010. Before that, she helmed the department of modern and contemporary art at the Harvard Art Museum, and served as the museum’s Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art. Prior to her role at Harvard, Molesworth was chief curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH.

The announcement comes shortly after MOCA’s appointment of Philippe Vergne as director in March. The museum’s previous director, the divisive former dealer Jeffrey Deitch, resigned last July after a turbulent three-year stint that saw the resignation of all four artists on MOCA’s board as well as the ouster of long-time Chief Curator Paul Schimmel. These two recent appointments, as well as the raising of MOCA’s endowment to $100 million in January, may signal a comeback for the museum after recent financial setbacks and crises in leadership.

Molesworth has been responsible for a number of well-received exhibitions including This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, a re-appraisal of visual arts in the US during that period. She has also organized and contributed to monographic shows on Catherine Opie, Zoe Leonard, Amy Sillman, and Luc Tuymans among others. A Kerry James Marshall retrospective she guest-curated for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago will travel to MOCA in 2017, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“She curates transversally; meaning that she does not follow beaten, fashionable paths but knows how to open new roads, diverse roads with integrity and rigor,” remarked new MOCA director Vergne. “She is a marvelous scholar and writer and knows how to listen, work and dialogue with artists.”

Molesworth’s recent Artforum review of the Whitney Biennial may give some indication of the curatorial vision she will be bringing to MOCA.