This Weekend at LACMA: Vulture Peak Comes Down, Russian Avant-Garde Closes, French Films, Free Concerts, and More

July 13, 2012

If you were in our Korean art galleries at all last year, you probably saw conservators working in plain view on the restoration of an eighteenth-century Buddhist painting, Buddha Seokgamoni (Shakyamuni) Preaching to the Assembly on Vulture Peak. Since December we’ve prominently displayed the restored artwork front and center in the Korean galleries. This weekend is your last chance to see this masterpiece before the fragile work of art comes down.

Buddha Seokgamoni (Shakyamuni) Preaching to the Assembly on Vulture Peak, Korea, Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), dated 1755, Far Eastern Art Acquisition Fund

Also closing this weekend is the small installation on the Russian Avant-Garde, while Whistler’s Etchings and Japanese Paintings: Paths to Enlightenment close next week. You also have just a couple more weeks to see Fracture: Daido Moriyama—it closes at the end of this month.

For tonight’s “French Film Friday,” we’ve got a double-feature of Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast followed by a stunning 35mm print of Marcel L’Herbier’s 1942 film La Nuit Fantastique.

As usual all summer, we’ve got free concerts all weekend. Tonight, jazz quartet Slumgum will be joined by trumpeter Hugh Ragin for tonight’s free Jazz at LACMA concert. Peruvian guitarist Ciro Hurtado will perform out in Hancock Park on Saturday evening for Latin Sounds. And  Sunday evening, violinist Roberto Cani and pianist Robert Thies perform two pieces by Mozart and Brahms during our weekly free Sundays Live program.

Scott Tennent

Contested Visions Travels to the “Castillo de Chapultepec” in Mexico City

July 12, 2012

On January 29, 2012, Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World completed its run at LACMA. Since then, we have been busy planning the presentation of the exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Historia (“Castillo de Chapultepec”) in Mexico City, where it opens today as Miradas Comparadas en los virreinatos de América. The Castillo is a special place. It is built atop the Chapultepec hill (the word chapultepec comes from the Náhuatl chapoltepēc, which means “at the grasshopper’s hill”). The hill was a sacred place for the Aztecs. In colonial times it became the site of the viceroys’ summer palace and during the nineteenth century the home of the ill-fated Austrian emperor Maximilian I and his wife Carolta. The place is filled with history.

View of the Castillo de Chapultepec, Mexico City. Photo: Gliserio Castañeda-INAH.

Over the course of the last few months we have worked closely with our partners from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) in redefining the checklist, planning the installation, and completing the translation of the book in Spanish. Some works displayed at LACMA were too fragile to withstand additional travel (such as those made of feathers or delicate Andean textiles).

Ceremonial Shield (Chimalli), Mexico, Aztec,16th century; duck, thrush, macaw, Blue Cotinga feathers; cotton and beeswax adhesive, Museo Nacional de Historia, CONACULTA–INAH, Mexico City.

Among the many rewarding aspects of our collaboration with INAH was selecting new works to show at the Castillo, including an astounding sixteenth-century chimalli(ceremonial shield) from the Castillo’s own collection. The shield, one of the only pre-Columbian featherworks to have survived the conquest, is said to have been a gift of the conqueror Hernán Cortés to King Charles V. (It was returned to Mexico in 1865 at the behest of Emperor Maximilian.)

“Feather artist (amanteca) with ceremonial shield (chimalli) and ritual objects made of special feathers,” from Bernardino de Sahagún, Florentine Codex, book 12 (Mexico, 1555–79). Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence.

Feathers were endowed with sacred meaning since preconquest times and associated with the Aztec patron deity Huitzilopochtli. Local amantecas (feather artists) created exceptional works by skillfully trimming and applying the iridescent feathers onto various surfaces. The technique greatly captured the imaginations of Europeans. For example, in describing the gifts sent by Cortés to King Charles V, a Spanish chronicler noted that the king marveled at how “brilliantly the use of feathers replaced that of the brush.”

Attributed to José Vivar y Valderrama, Baptism Scene, 18th century, oil on canvas, Museo Nacional de Historia, CONACULTA–INAH, Mexico City.

Another extraordinary work that viewers will see in Mexico is a monumental painting depicting the baptism of an Aztec ruler. The work measures approximately 156 x 161 inches and was therefore too large to bring to Los Angeles. To mark the occasion, a Spaniard is depicted playing a horn, while an Aztec man plays a horizontal drum (teponaztli)—an ancient percussion instrument used during rituals.

Attributed to José Vivar y Valderrama, Baptism Scene (detail), 18th century, oil on canvas, Museo Nacional de Historia, CONACULTA–INAH, Mexico City.Historia, CONACULTA–INAH, Mexico City.

The display of huge indigenous feather fans and sumptuous silver plates (associated with the Spaniards) reinforces the pact between the Indian and Spanish polities. A Spanish scribe carefully documents the historic event for posterity. Although the painting depicts a sixteenth-century event, the painting dates from two centuries later. It was designed to commemorate this foundational episode of the conquest and the importance of the Mercedarian order.

Installation shot at the Castillo de Chapultepec, Mexico City. Photo: Ilona Katzew

These are only a few examples of new works in the show. We hope some of you will be able to enjoy the exhibition in its new incarnation in Mexico City.

Ilona Katzew, curator and department head, Latin American Art

Gilbert Collection Goes Mobile

July 11, 2012

Just recently, we launched a new component of our mobile app: a tour of the Gilbert Collection. You’ll find the app in iTunes or you can go to using the browser on your iPhone or Droid. (The tour feature is designed to be used in the galleries. By entering the numbers you see on the labels, you’ll access information about highlights of the collection.)

The Gilbert Collection is an extraordinary example of decorative arts; at LACMA, we have 50 highlights of the collection on view, including works in gold and silver, as well as pietre dure, micromosaic, and gold boxes, all acquired by Sir Arthur Gilbert over the course of forty years, beginning in the 1960s. You’ll find the collection in a series of galleries on the third floor of the Ahmanson Building at LACMA. When you take the tour, you’ll hear Sir Arthur’s son, Colin Gilbert, recall that his father used to visit the galleries at LACMA in his tennis clothes, carrying a magnifying glass that he would offer to visitors to entice them to look a little closer at the treasures he had so carefully collected. He didn’t reveal his identity, he just sat back and enjoyed sharing his passion for these objects with others.

One highlight of the new tour is this interview with collector Julian Sands. Sands spoke about a Thomas Pitts 18th century epergne – stunning in real life, and even more stunning as one imagines the setting that Sands describes: a table laden with delicacies, lit by candlelight that would have danced on the finely-wrought silver.

I also love this interview with conservator John Hirx, who demonstrates and explains the construction of this elaborate set of 18th century gates by Russian artist Alexis Timothy Ischenko.

If you’re interested in the decorative arts, this tour is a can’t-miss.

Amy Heibel

Augmented Reality: Project-o-Rator

July 9, 2012

This weekend as part of our Artist’s Respond series, we launched Project-o-Rator, by Will Pappenheimer and John Craig Freeman. The project transforms the in-between spaces on the museum campus using augmented reality.

Here’s how it works:

On your smartphone, go to If you do not have the free augmented reality browser Layar installed, you’ll be prompted to install the app. Within Layar, search for “LACMA” to launch the project.


Use the QR code below to install the free Layar Augmented Reality Browser, which will launch the project.


Download Layar at and search for “LACMA”.

You’ll want to be in the outdoor public spaces at the museum in order to experience the project. By viewing the plaza spaces through the camera on your mobile device, you’ll encounter an augmented reality layer that introduces three-dimensional virtual objects in your field of vision. Interacting with those objects, you’ll encounter associated sound and images.

Got that? Okay, now here is what Will and Craig, who are part of an artist collection called Manifest.AR, had to say about the project:

Will: We got interested in augmented reality via working with online open gaming. We have an ongoing interest in a mixed reality space. We view augmented reality as a new form of public art.

Craig: I was inspired by the campus at LACMA, the space between the buildings that creates this kind of public square. And further, by the early Russian avant-garde and the work of Gustav Klutsis in particular. I’ve always been drawn to the rostrums and propaganda stands he was designing in 1918. His work was trying to create a political discourse using early radio and projection technology. So recasting this for the twenty-first century using emergent augmented reality technology seemed very appropriate to me.

Will: When the visitor views the public space at the museum through a mobile device like an iPhone or iPad, they have the opportunity to access two different layers. Once in either of those layers, they can look for objects that will be visible around the plazas of the museum. You can go toward the objects and experience them up close. You can also walk inside them.

Craig: I drew on the propaganda stands that Klutsis designed. In the augmented reality layer that I created, you can touch them on your screen and it will trigger the audio files—sounds that come from contemporary uprisings around the world that correspond to the imagery in the projection.

Will: In the case of the layer I’m making, I drew on sound horns in Klutsis’s work and transformed them into giant vision funnels. You can look through and enter the funnels to view vistas at the other end. As soon as you get near the funnels, audio and image animations are triggered inside.

One thing that really intrigued and interested us in using augmented reality is that you can actually change the architecture in a way that changes how you see its use. With this type of work, which is called GPS-located augmented reality, you have a philosophical or psychological experience when you encounter virtual objects located in physical space. It’s almost dream-like, the juxtaposition of one reality over another.

Craig: What augmented reality does is make place count again. It brings the discourse back to specific locations, in this case, the plazas at LACMA. The virtual world is being constructed all around us. Our work is a challenge to the notion of who owns virtual space and who is going to assert dominion over public virtual space.

Will: Augmented reality is a medium in very early stages. It’s like you’re experimenting with a medium that has hardly been formed or explored yet. At times its very simple and doesn’t work perfectly, but it’s exciting to work with this unfolding world.

Craig: There’s something profound about this time we’re going through. We need a new metaphysics to contend with the transition to the digital age. In prior times, we thought we understood what “real” was. That ground, that assuredness, has started to shift under our feet. It’s incumbent on artists to be engaged in this discussion so we don’t leave it to commercial interests.

Here’s Craig demonstrating the project:

Amy Heibel

This Weekend at LACMA: Godard and Truffaut, Free Concerts, Levitated Mass Family Activities, Augmented Reality, and More

July 6, 2012

Starting tonight, Film Independent brings us “French Film Fridays” throughout July. The series kicks off with two classics: Godard’s Contempt and Truffaut’s Mississippi Mermaid.  Essential viewings for your film education!

On the other side of campus this evening, saxophonist Rickey Woodard, who has played with Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and more, brings his sextet to LACMA for our free jazz concert.

That’s the first of three free concerts this weekend. Saturday afternoon, take a stroll through Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass and then keep strolling right into Hancock Park for Latin Sounds—this weekend featuring twelve-piece salsa big band Orquesta Tabaco y Ron, starting at 5pm. Then, on Sunday, see Trio Latitude 41 perform compositions by Schubert and Tchaikovsky in the Bing Theater during Sundays Live.

As usual, Sunday also sees our weekly free family activities, Andell Family Sundays—this month inspired by Levitated Mass.

Michael Heizer, Levitated Mass, conceived 1969, realized 2012, made possible by gifts to Transformation: The LACMA Campaign from Jane and Terry Semel, Bobby Kotick, Carole Bayer Sager and Bob Daly, Beth and Joshua Friedman, Steve Tisch Family Foundation, Elaine Wynn, Linda, Bobby, and Brian Daly, Richard Merkin, MD, and the Mohn Family Foundation, and is dedicated by LACMA to the memory of Nancy Daly. Transportation made possible by Hanjin Shipping Co., © Michael Heizer

Inside the galleries, a few exhibitions and smaller installations are entering their closing weeks. The beautiful Korean painting, Buddha Seokgamoni Preaching to the Assembly on Vulture Peak, which we spent the better part of last year restoring in the Korean galleries, will be coming off view on July 15. Also closing that day is the small but wonderful Russian Avant-Garde, on view in the modern galleries in the Ahmanson Building.

Aleksander Rodchenko, Constructivists and Poets, 1924, Ralph M. Parsons Fund

Inspired by the Russian Avant-Garde show and the architecture of LACMA’s plaza, artists Will Pappenheimer and John Craig Freeman created a special project called Project-o-Rator. The project, which is location-based and can only be experienced at LACMA, transforms the in-between spaces of the museum’s campus using augmented reality. If you have an Android or iPhone with you while at the museum this weekend, visit the Project-o-Rator site or use the QR code below to install the free Layar Augmented Reality Browser, which will launch the project. If you have an iPad, download Layar and search for “LACMA”. Once you’ve done this, viewing the museum campus through your camera will reveal an augmented reality layer that introduces 3-D virtual objects on your screen. Find out more.

More shows are closing before the end of the month, including Whistler’s Etchings, Japanese Paintings: Paths to Enlightenment, and The Way of the Elders. Finally, Daido Moriyama’s gritty photographs of Japan will come down at the end of the month, so time is running out.

Daido Moriyama, Untitled, c. 1975, Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Daido Moriyama

Scott Tennent


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