Hans Ulrich Obrist to Moderate Instagram Talk

[Hans Ulrich Obrist on the left, via]
[Hans Ulrich Obrist on the left, via]

If you have an Instagram account – there are currently over 200 million users - you may have noticed the recent proliferation of artists using the image-sharing app. Everyone’s got their list of the top ten, fifteen or 134 artists to follow. (Ai Wei Wei, Richard Prince, and Vik Muniz are among the most popular.) Art website Hyperallergic just wrapped a year’s worth of columns on the selfie – arguably the most common image type on Instagram. Which all begs the question: “But is it Art?”

Ai Wei Wei's "leg gun" which went viral on Instagram earlier this year
Ai Wei Wei’s “leg gun” which went viral on Instagram earlier this year

This is just one of the avenues of inquiry that tireless curator Hans Ulrich Obrist will be exploring at an Instagram Mini-Marathon this Saturday evening in downtown LA. HUO (whose own Instagram boasts 41,000 followers) has teamed up with local blog/artspace/publisher ForYourArt to present the panel discussion that will include artists Meg Cranston, Frances Stark, and Alex Israel, among others. Topics will include how Instagram “functions within their individual practices,” “whether Instagram is a personal, social, or artistic space,” and also who to follow (in case you need more reasons to be staring at your phone all day), according to ForYourArt’s founder Bettina Korek. No word on whether they will cover whether Valencia or Nashville is the best filter for getting your art noticed.

Ulrich Obrist originally conceived of the Mini-Marathon concept in 2005 as a way to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue on the ways in which the visual arts intersect with science, technology and other artforms, like music, theater and architecture.

Fittingly, the Mini-Marathon will take place at the historic Million Dollar Theatre, which was opened by Sid Grauman almost 100 years ago, as a home for the last century’s most popular form of image consumption. The event begins at 7:30, doors at 6:30 and tickets can be obtained here.

Public Art in Billboard Form

Roy McMakin, Favorite Color, 2010 [via]
Roy McMakin, Favorite Color, 2010 [via]

Public art is commonly (and often rightfully) criticized for being too safe and inoffensive. Public funds demand public consensus, which means we are usually left with the lowest common denominator – something that no one could possibly be offended or inspired by. André Breton famous dictum – “Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all” – seems not to apply to public art, where people would rather choose lack of beauty than suffer the convulsions.

Which is why privately funded public art is often better than that using taxpayer dollars. A new project funded by private donors aims to counter this trend by taking the greatest hits of American art out of museums and placing them on 500,000 outdoor advertising structures in all fifty states. Art Everywhere US will feature 58 (North) American artworks from five major museums chosen by you, the public, to grace billboards, bus shelters, and subway posters nationwide from August 4th – 31st. While the prospect of gazing at Grant Wood’s American Gothic or Joseph Stella’s Brooklyn Bridge while waiting for the bus is certainly a more appealing option than staring slack-jawed at a Mountain Dew ad, the populist campaign is drawing criticism from some. Famed ad man Peter Arnell of all people, is skeptical, telling the New York Times it will be “demeaning to the art” since “people will perceive the art as advertising.” And in a sense it is advertising, enticing people to go into one of the five participating museums to see the work in person. But it remains to be seen if people will actually be drawn to these institutions, when they can glimpse an Edward Hopper or Jasper Johns from the comfort of their car as they cruise down the freeway.

Catherine Opie, The Shores, 2013 [via Rainey Knudson]
Catherine Opie, The Shores, 2013

A similar project that navigates the challenges and pitfalls of public art is the Murals of La Jolla in San Diego. Since 2010 a rotating selection of site-specific murals and vinyl billboards have graced the sides of buildings throughout the city. Turn a corner and you can find a work by artists as diverse as John Baldessari, Gajin Fujita, or Ann Hamilton. One reason for the success of the project is the fact that it is privately funded and located on private property, thereby skirting the issues that compromise so many pieces of public art. This is not to say that the work is created or sited without concern for its audience. Many of the works directly address life in Southern California, such as Catherine Opie’s image of surfers or Fred Tomaselli’s homage to Chula Vista Chicano punk band the Zeros. To create his mural, Roy McMakin asked a group of locals what their favorite colors were.

In an attempt to channel energy from this public project back into the gallery, Quint Gallery has asked artists who participated in the mural project to recommended an underrepresented or emerging artist. Their choices will be shown in a group exhibition “Horizon,” which opens this Saturday and runs through September 6th. Notable picks include Rashell George, James Enos and Heather Rasmussen. After all, shouldn’t the role of public art be to broaden our horizons, not just recycle familiar images?


LACMA Considers Gehry Skyscraper



LACMA recently announced that it would be revising its Peter Zumthor-designed expansion to span Wilshire Boulevard, and now it may be adding a skyscraper to this plan. According to Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, museum officials are in the very early stages of talks with LA Metro and other property owners to build a mixed-use tower above the forthcoming subway station on the south side of Wilshire.

The building would house a hotel and condos, as well as a new architecture and design wing of the museum. This is significant, since the Architecture and Design Museum (which is not affiliated with LACMA) that currently sits on the lot will be demolished to make room for the subway.

Michael Govan, LACMA’s entrepreneurial director, has expressed interest in having Frank Gehry design the new structure, and possibly housing Gehry’s archives there. “I’m jealous that New York has a Gehry tower and we don’t,” said Govan, perhaps appealing to potential donors’ feelings of civic inadequacy. Gehry offered a characteristically terse, “I’m open to it.” He has good reason to be cautious in his enthusiasm: Gehry’s museum buildings have generally been more favorably received outside of LA than in his hometown.

This proposal follows controversial developments in New York, where MoMA will be expanding into a Jean Nouvel designed skyscraper, and in Santa Monica, where a mixed-use development is at the center of a proposal for a re-designed Bergamot Station. Before LACMA can even begin to think seriously about construction however, it must negotiate with nearby property owners and LA Metro since the museum only owns one-third of the land.

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.