A Transformational Gift for Korean Contemporary Art

April 6, 2011

Last week LACMA became the recipient of a gift that has blown my mind—Korean cosmetics company AMOREPACIFIC has given the museum $1 million to be used toward acquisitions of contemporary art over the next five years.

As a native-Californian Korean-American curator who has perpetually looked toward works by international artists to contribute to global points of entry and contact in contemporary art, this is especially heartening. Of course contemporary Korean artists—whether those featured in Venice or Gwangju or others living and working around the world in a variety of capacities—have been creating vital, rich, and strong works for the past couple of decades (and longer). This is something, I’m happy to note, that LACMA has already demonstrated with the recent exhibition Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea, as well as a number of acquisitions of Korean contemporary art already in the collection.  

Franklin Sirmans and I just installed LACMA’s first contemporary permanent collection installation in six years, Human Nature, on the 2nd floor of BCAM. It seems people have been blogging about the abundance of great work by Korean artists installed throughout the exhibition.

Nikki S. Lee, The Hispanic Project, 1998, Ralph M. Parsons Fund

What a treat to hang Nikki Lee’s Hip Hop Project and Hispanic Project (2001) alongside Yinka Shonibare’s Diary of a Victorian Dandy (1998) and across from Lorna Simpson’s 1957–2009 Interior #3 (2009), which is the first series of the artist’s impressive oeuvre since the early 1980s in which she herself appears. All three and others in the gallery, including L.A. artists Kori Newkirk and Rodney McMillian, are types of self-portraits in which the artist inserts themselves as a strategy around perception and portraiture (with Robert Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait from 1980 holding the sightline throne).

Haegue Yang, Doubles and Couples, 2008, purchased in honor of Lynn Zelevansky with funds provided by The Broad Art Foundation, Hyon Chough, the Korea Arts Foundation of America (KAFA), Wonmi and Kihong Kwon, The Hillcrest Foundation, Tony and Gail Ganz, Terri and Michael Smooke, Judy and Stuart Spence, Steven Neu, and other donors through the 2009 Collectors Committee

Recently, the museum acquired Haegue Yang’s Doubles and Couples (2008) featured in the Turin Triennale in 2009. Having represented Korea at the last Venice Biennale and having just had exhibitions at the New Museum in New York, the Walker Art Center, and REDCAT in Los Angeles, this Korean artist living and working in Germany is truly a global provocateur and genius whose practice spans the examination of history and philosophy alongside personal narrative. This monumental piece occupies the largest gallery space in the exhibition.

Do Ho Suh, Gate, 2005,purchased with funds provided by Carla and Fred Sands through the 2006 Collectors Committee

Last but not least, it was a thrill to install a signature Korean gate installation by one of my all-time favorite artists and dear friend Do Ho Suh. The gate, a replica from his family home in Seoul—but made of silk—is installed in a gallery with a great international and sculptural emphasis including works by Aligiero Boetti, Mauricio Cattalan, Martin Puryear, and Zhang Huan. Do Ho has had a long relationship with LACMA, which I hope will continue for many years to come.

AMOREPACIFIC’s gift presents great opportunity for us to build on this foundation and continue the dialogue between contemporary Korean artists not only with the rest of the global contemporary art world but also with Korea’s own cultural history, as told through our comprehensive permanent collection of Korean art stretching back to ancient times. Lots of thoughts, lots of excitement, lots of potential… just sharing the exciting news has my mind ticking, clicking, and churning away!

Christine Y. Kim, Associate Curator, Contemporary Art 

David Smith: Lineage

April 5, 2011

Working on the exhibition David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy over the past six years has caused me to muse more than once on “lineage”—the many relationships each of us has to history.  Let me explain.

Renowned American sculptor David Smith (who was born in 1906) briefly attended the University of Notre Dame and worked one summer at the Studebaker automobile factory, both in South Bend, Indiana.  I was born and grew up in South Bend and my father was on the faculty at Notre Dame.  Pure coincidence, but it makes me feel connected, a part of a historical trajectory.

David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy is the first major exhibition on the West Coast devoted to this outstanding sculptor in over forty-five years.  The last one, also at LACMA, opened in November of 1965.  It was organized by Maurice Tuchman, who was the head of my curatorial department (then known as Twentieth-Century Art) when I first arrived at the museum as a curatorial assistant in 1984.  Another personal link in a historical chain.

cover, David Smith: A Memorial Exhibition, published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1965

The two exhibitions are very different, however.  Cubes and Anarchy is a thematic exhibition—including not only Smith’s sculptures but also his drawings, paintings, and photographs—tracing the sculptor’s use of geometry from the very first years of his career in the early 1930s to his unexpected death in 1965.  LACMA’s 1965 show, by contrast, started out as an exhibition of then-recent large-scale sculptures—a dozen from the Cubi series and two from the Zig series—all made between 1961 and 1965.  On May 23, 1965, in the midst of the preparations for that show, Smith was killed in a car accident at age 59.  As a result, the show became David Smith: A Memorial Exhibition.  As Anne M. Wagner writes in the Cubes and Anarchy catalogue, “The [1965] catalogue…took up the task of mourning, its cover speaking…of tragic martyrdom, and its concluding photograph—the artist’s welding helmet, still sitting where he had left it in the studio—offering a more subtle and immediate evocation of bodily loss.”

Since 1965 David Smith has ascended into the artistic pantheon, not only of great American artists but of all great artists.  So, for the art historian and curator—for me, that is—as well as for the visitor to Cubes and Anarchy, the sense of a personal connection to this remarkable artist is now enhanced by a broader cultural perspective.

Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art

Television and Disaster: Vija Celmins

April 3, 2011

Recently, artist Vija Celmins visited LACMA. She was here for the installation of Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster 1964-1966. Celmins made all of the paintings in the show during a period when she was living in Los Angeles–more specifically, in a beloved studio in Venice. She talked about that time in her life, what propelled her work then, and how she looks at it now:

Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster 1964-1966 is on view in the Ahmanson building, plaza level, through June 5th. (After you see the paintings, don’t miss Celmins’ markedly different Untitled (Comb) just down the hall in a nearby gallery.)

Amy Heibel

This Weekend at LACMA: David Smith Opens, Larry Fink Closes, Rare Godard Screening, and More

April 1, 2011

As previewed earlier this week, opening this Sunday in the Resnick Pavilion is David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy, the first major exhibition devoted to the artist on the West Coast in almost half a century. The show features more than 100 objects, including sculptures, drawings, paintings, and photographs from across Smith’s career. While you’re here be sure to head across the way to BCAM for Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection.

David Smith, CUbi XXVIII, 1965, The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles

Just adjacent to Cubes and Anarchy is Larry Fink: Hollywood, 2000–2010, which closes this Sunday. Also closing Sunday is In the Service of the Buddha: Tibetan Furniture from the Hayward Family Collection.

Between tonight and tomorrow you have four different opportunities to catch a rare screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1980 film Every Man for Himself, starring Jacques Dutronc and Isabelle Huppert. Godard referred to this as his “second first film”—a return to form after ten years of experimental films and radical politics.

Every Man for Himself

With a new month comes a new theme for Andell Family Sundays: bring your kids to the museum for “Dig It: Egypt” —check out our recently reinstalled ancient world galleries (including a mummy in a sarcophagus!) and make art in our family workshops inspired by these ancient objects.

Ancient galleries

Sunday night, the Chamber Ensembles from the Colbern Conservatory will perform as part of our ongoing free Sundays Live concert series.

Scott Tennent


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