Installing “Burn, Baby, Burn”

May 13, 2009

Following two previous posts in relation to this LARGE Matta painting, I wanted to share some images I took during the stretching and hanging of this monumental piece.

Under the supervision and direction of the Painting Conservation Department, conservators and art handlers unrolled and placed the painting on a custom-made stretcher covered with a loose lining (canvas support).




Once the painted canvas was correctly positioned on the stretcher, conservators then proceeded to attach it by stapling on the back side of the stretcher. This process requires a lot of pulling and tugging to make sure the painting is completely flat and wrinkle free.




After the attaching is done, the painting is lifted and hung on the wall by as many as ten people. All told, this feat was accomplished in about four hours.




Yosi Pozeilov, Senior Conservation Photographer

Installing Henry VIII

May 12, 2009

Yesterday, we installed seven large, lead-framed photographs at LACMA that constitute Hiroshi Sugimoto’s powerful Henry VIII and His Six Wives “portraits.”

When you first enter the dark gallery, you might be confused by what these pictures are—whether they depict actors dressed as Henry and his wives or whether they’re amazingly photorealistic paintings. They are, in fact, photographs of waxworks made by the legendary Madame Tussaud. For each, Sugimoto placed a black velvet cloth behind them and used a 3/4 turned and cropped framing of the “figures” akin to the first portrait photographers in the mid-nineteenth century. In so doing, Sugimoto breathes photographic life into the layers of simulation and equivalence of his historic subjects.


Henry VIII and His Six Wives, 1999
Seven gelatin-silver prints, edition 3/10
Courtesy the artist and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Hiroshi Sugimoto


Catherine of Aragon
Queen of England, 1509–1533


Anne Boleyn
Queen of England, 1533–1536


Jane Seymour
Queen of England, 1536–1537


Anne of Cleves
Queen of England, 1540 (January–July)


Catherine Howard
Queen of England, 1540–1542


Catherine Parr
Queen of England, 1543–1547

I’m so pleased we were able to bring these works to LACMA for the 500th anniversary of Henry’s accession to the English throne (and recommend you check out the wonderful Twitter site, I Am Henry VIII, which sends you bizarrely casual and daily updates from Henry on the build up to his June 24 coronation). To see Henry VIII and His Six Wives installed within this encyclopedic museum is quite amazing, potentially activating our imaginations upon all manner of historic objects and their possible stories.

Charlotte Cotton

Bernard’s New Bow Tie

May 12, 2009


Bernard Kester, exhibition designer extraordinaire, is somewhat of a legend here at LACMA. The combination of his gentlemanly demeanor, wry sense of humor, and impeccable design sense make him much beloved among many LACMA staff. When I met Bernard, it didn’t take long to realize I was in the presence of greatness. Greatness in a bow tie, that is. Perfectly tied in beautiful colors.


One day, new work shirts arrived in our offices; they were plopped down very close to Bernard’s desk. Nearly every time he passed the work shirts, he exclaimed how “dreadful” they were. Poor Bernard seemed positively tortured by the banal and practical creations inhabiting his space.

So what to do? Torture him more, of course. Knowing that this refined character was also a fan of a good joke, I started thinking about how I could take his disdain for the shirts and channel it into something wonderful. I decided to make him a bow tie out of one of the shirts which would otherwise have been discarded. It helps that I just happened to know someone who can make a bow tie with her eyes closed: my mom. So, I sent the shirt to my mom, who sent back a perfect little bow tie. Expecting he would never be interested in wearing it, we in the Operations Department put our heads together to decide how to present it. We enlisted Gallery Services to build a little case with scrap wood and Plexiglas. Art Prep and Installation wrapped a deck with a beautiful silk and mounted the tie to museum standards.


Presented with the object of his abhorrence transformed into a stunning bow tie, Bernard was giddy. He immediately tried to try it on, and has threatened that one day he will wear it to work! My mom is working on the necessary alteration as I type…

Eileen Dikdan, Exhibition Designer


May 11, 2009

People around the museum seemed to like the Urban Light playlist I assembled a little while back, so today I bring you playlist #2, inspired by Pompeii and the Roman Villa. You can download this playlist at iTunes.


  1. Iggy Pop: Lust for Life
  2. Rufus Wainwright: Greek Song
  3. Beirut: Postcards from Italy
  4. Beck: Volcano
  5. Los Campesinos!: Between an Erupting Earth and an Exploding Sky
  6. Brian Eno: Baby’s On Fire
  7. Jim Waller and the Deltas: Vesuvius
  8. David Bowie: Ashes to Ashes
  9. Pixies: Dig for Fire
  10. Siouxsie and the Banshees: Cities in Dust
  11. Dr. Dog: Army of Ancients
  12. Dar Williams: This Was Pompeii

Special thanks to those of you following us on Twitter who suggested the tracks by Bowie, Eno, Beck, Jim Waller, and Dar Williams. Other terrific suggestions via Twitter included “Arrivederci Roma” by Jerry Vale, Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass,” “Cold Song” by Klaus Nomi, “Pompeii” by Gatsby’s American Dream, Dean Martin’s classic “That’s Amore,” and, of course, Jimmy Buffet’s “Volcano,” which contained the line likely on every Pompeian’s lips that fateful day: I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when da volcano blow! Did I forget anything else? (Please don’t say “Eruption” by Van Halen.)

Last but not least, I can’t help but include this video of the excellent Rezillos song “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures,” which is sadly not available on iTunes.

Don’t love my baby for her pouty lips
Don’t love my baby for her curvy hips

I love my baby ’cause she does good sculptures yeah!

Scott Tennent

Twitter Update

May 11, 2009


Last summer, I started up my own Twitter account on behalf of LACMA. The idea was to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the assembly of one of our exhibitions, Hard Targets. It worked pretty well, and I expanded my account to include other tidbits about the museum, which ultimately led to the more official @LACMA. A few of us have contributed to that account, and now we’re rolling both my original account and @LACMA into one. Kicking things off, Erin Sorensen from our Education Department and Devi Noor in American art will be joining me in posting daily updates on @LACMA, and we’ll see how it goes. Twitter has been an experiment for us for a while now and we think this might be a good next step—getting all your LACMA news in one place. Let us know if you like the new format; we’ll keep tinkering until we get it just right.

Allison Agsten


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