Magritte and the Trading of Images

September 9, 2013

Last Friday, René Magritte’s iconic masterpiece, The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) (La trahison des images [Ceci n’est pas une pipe]) (1929), left its home in LACMA’s Modern Art wing for New York. The painting will be featured in the yearlong exhibition, Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938, opening later this month at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, before traveling to the Menil Collection, Houston, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (La Trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (La Trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Magritte (1898–1967)—a Belgian artist most often associated with the Surrealist movements in Paris and Brussels—created a body of work that explored perceptions of reality and illusion and the disjunction between images and language. The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) exemplifies his masterful word-image paintings by pairing a picture of a pipe with the contradictory phrase, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is Not a Pipe). Though Magritte’s pipe certainly looks like one, the artist’s linguistic rejection asserts that the painted representation is not synonymous with the real thing.

Installation at LACMA of   René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (La Trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (left) and René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (right)

Installation at LACMA of René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (La Trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (left) and René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (right)

René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The painting entered LACMA’s collection in 1978 and occupies an important place within the museum’s holdings of avant-garde art from Europe. It is situated within the Dada, Surrealism, De Stijl gallery on the second floor of LACMA’s Ahmanson Building (gallery 224) among works by artists such as Arshile Gorky, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and Yves Tanguy. It also hangs next to the other Magritte painting owned by LACMA, The Liberator (1947). LACMA is the only museum collection in Los Angeles with holdings of works by Magritte, and, with the temporary absence of The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe), LACMA now has a new painting by the artist hanging in its place, on loan from the Menil Collection.

René Magritte, The Listening room (la chambre d'écoute), 1952, The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Philippa Friedrich, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

René Magritte, The Listening Room (la chambre d’écoute), 1952, The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Philippa Friedrich, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In the spirit of collegiality and scholarship, museums occasionally lend their works to other institutions for exhibitions. This can be difficult to do if the work is greatly loved by the museum’s visitors and its curators, but it can sometimes present an opportunity to exhibit something new from afar. The Menil Collection—which owns a remarkable 54 works by Magritte—has sent their painting, The Listening Room (La chambre d’écoute) (1952), to LACMA for the run of their traveling exhibition, which explores the artist’s earlier work. This painting—from a much later period in Magritte’s career and thus, beyond the scope of their presentation—is emblematic of the artist’s playful compositions of domestic spaces overtaken by dramatically oversized everyday objects, such as apples, roses, drinking glasses, and combs. In The Listening Room, a massive green apple dominates an empty and compact interior with a window revealing the outside landscape. The Belgian poet Paul Colinet, a friend of Magritte, described the artist’s works as “magnetized listening devices” and gave the painting its title.

Installation photo of the exhibition Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images (November 2006–March 2007), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Photo © Museum Associates LACMA

Installation photo of the exhibition Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images (November 2006–March 2007), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Photo © Museum Associates LACMA

This is not the first time The Listening Room has been on view at LACMA. It was included in the exhibition Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images at LACMA in 2006–7, which examined the artist’s impact on contemporary artists such as John Baldessari (who designed the exhibition), Robert Gober, Ed Ruscha, and others. Magritte’s alterations of scale inspired later artists such as Vija Celmins and Claes Oldenburg, who were both influenced by the iconic larger-than-life-size objects in Magritte’s work. For example, in Untitled (Comb) (1970), currently on view in a gallery adjacent to the Magritte works, Celmins made a sculptural reproduction of a comb in Magritte’s painting, Les valeurs personnelles (Personal Values) (1952).

 Vija Celmins, Untitled (Comb), 1970, Contemporary Art Council Fund, © Vija Celmins

Vija Celmins, Untitled (Comb), 1970, Contemporary Art Council Fund, © Vija Celmins

The Menil Collection’s The Listening Room is now in an exciting dialogue with LACMA’s The Liberator, a pairing that offers a new perspective on Magritte’s late work. Instead of a large, inflated object that distorts reality, the man in The Liberator sits in a landscape of unfolding structures and clouds with only everyday objects such as a suitcase, cane, and hat to ground him in the real world. Perhaps the fantastical outdoor scene in The Liberator is not far from the one outside The Listening Room’s window? Or perhaps the two paintings demonstrate two unique and independent visions by the artist? The Listening Room and The Liberator will be on view together through October 2014 for you to make your own connections and comparisons.

Installation at LACMA of René Magritte, The Listening room (la chambre d'écoute), 1952, The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Philippa Friedrich, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (left) and René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (right)

Installation at LACMA of René Magritte, The Listening room (la chambre d’écoute), 1952, The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Philippa Friedrich, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (left) and René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (right)

Christine Robinson
Yvonne and Harry Lenart Graduate Intern, Modern Art


This Weekend at LACMA: The Fifth-Annual L.A. Jazz Treasure Award, A Pie Bake Off, Works of Art, and More!

September 6, 2013

A very special edition of Jazz at LACMA this week presents the fifth-annual L.A. Jazz Treasure Award to composer, arranger, and big-band leader Johnny Mandel. A National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, Mandel has worked with icons like Count Basie, Ray Charles, and Barbra Streisand throughout his career. Such genius has not gone unnoticed. Along with five Grammy Awards, Mandel received the Academy Award for “The Shadow of Your Smile,” from the 1965 film The Sandpiper. He is, undoubtedly, one of the nation’s top musical talents in the jazz, pop, and film-music realms. You can see him here for free on Friday at 6 pm.

For even more great (read: free) music come to LACMA for classical music at Sundays Live on Sunday at 6 pm. In this week’s installment, pianist Young Huh and cellist Austin Huntington perform works from Schumann, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff. Both music programs are free and open to the public.

On Saturday, the Good Food Pie Contest, presented by KCRW, invites bakers from across the Southland to bring their prime pastries to the fifth-annual bake off. To judge entries, we’ve assembled L.A. top chefs and food critics, including Good Food’s Evan Kleiman, and invite the general public to taste these sweet and savory confections and meet their makers. The event begins at 2 pm in Hancock Park and tickets for pie tasting are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis.

On Sunday, Andell Family Sundays inspires children and their parents to create their own textile art in this free workshop (with museum admission), as realized in the exhibition Pinaree Sanpitak: Hanging By A Thread—on view through the end of this month. To further exercise your creative spirit, visit the Boone Children’s Gallery, which was recently named the “Best Free Art Studio for Kids” by Los Angeles magazine.

Installation view, Henri Matisse: La Gerbe, Instagram Photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Installation view of Henri Matisse: La Gerbe, Instagram photo, © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Around campus, world-class works of art await your curiosity. The captivating Henri Matisee: La Gerbe draws to a close on Sunday. Discover how the celebrated artist was commissioned to create the vibrant ceramic, on view for the first time with its maquette. Around the corner in the Ahmanson Building, see one of our newest installations, Down to Earth: Modern Artists and the Land, Before Land Art, which explores the link between humans and the soil. Also on the same floor, Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema: The Golem and Its Avatars demonstrates the breadth of work from Europe that wonders about the golem, a large, powerful clay creature of Jewish folklore. Finally, delve deeper into our photographic collections with the survey of suburban forms in Little Boxes: Photography and the Suburbs and the introspective and determined work of the visual-poet Kitasono Katue in Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet.

Roberto Ayala


David Enriquez, Boone Children’s Gallery Apprentice

September 5, 2013

The Boone Children’s Gallery is proud to announce the appointment of its newest apprentice, David Enriquez. His upbeat personality, masterful skills at painting, and his comprehensive understanding of LACMA and of its free painting space made the decision an easy one, said Boone Children’s Gallery staff. David’s regular visits to paint in the Boone Children’s Gallery began when he was only four years old; just two years later, and now six, David is proud to have his first job. We recently sat down with David for a brief interview to get to know him even better.

RM-Boone.jpg

Photo courtesy of Richard Manirath

Angela: David, what’s your favorite thing about the Boone Children’s Gallery?

David: Everything, everything is my favorite. I’m always, like wow, look at all the stuff for people to use! I love to color and make art. I also like to go see the rock. And, I like the people in here, I know everybody’s name, and I can ask for lots of paper.

Angela: Now that you’re an apprentice, can you tell me what it’s been like to work for LACMA?

David: Well, you guys painted me my name badge. It’s so cool. And the girls in my neighborhood know I have a job, and it’s very important to girls that we have a job and a license.

Angela: Ahh, I can tell you are thinking ahead! Have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up?

David: I want to put out fires here in L.A., and I want to be Superman. I also think I want to write movies, like Batman. But maybe I’ll take your job, too.

Angela: Maybe in a few years, you will take my job! I would be happy to know someone like you would replace me.

David: Yeah, thanks.

Angela: You and your mom come here all the time. What do you say to Mom when you want to come to the museum?

David: I have to say, “Mom its 11! It’s time! The museum is open and I just need to go to the museum to see my friends.” Then I have to say, “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!!!”

Angela: What’s your favorite color to use when you paint, and why?

David: I think red is the best because it tells people to stop and it keeps people safe. It says that, just the color does.

Angela: One last question for you, what are you planning to paint today?

RM-boone2.jpg

Photo courtesy of Richard Manirath

David: I was thinking last night of painting my dog, Coconut, driving a purple Monster Jam truck.

Next time you visit the Boone Children’s Gallery, and a sweet young man with a homemade apron opens the door for you and asks “You wanna paint?” odds are it’s the newest member of the LACMA team. Tell him your name, and he will remember it. If you’re lucky, he will put your birthday in his ever-present calendar or even give you at the best seat in the house.

Angela Hall, education coordinator


Good Food Pie Contest

September 4, 2013

Pie is a favorite dessert, particularly in the United States, where it is considered as American as . . . well, apple pie! In light of KCRW’s annual Good Food Pie Contest happening at LACMA this Saturday, September 7, we thought it’d be apropos to look at LACMA’s holdings of works that might have accompanied sweet treats. The possibilities are endless, but here are some especially striking objects from 18th- and 19th-century Europe and colonial America that tell the story of how people enjoyed dessert.

Johann Wilhelm Keibel, Tea and Coffee Service, 1825, long-term loan from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (L.2010.9.38.1–.7)

Johann Wilhelm Keibel, Tea and Coffee Service, 1825, long-term loan from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (L.2010.9.38.1–.7)

If this gold tea and coffee service looks like it is fit for royalty, that’s because it is. Or was. It is believed to have been commissioned by the Russian imperial court and was created in 1825 by Johann Wilhelm Keibel, one of the court’s primary jewelers. Hard to imagine, but it is solid gold, with ivory handles. Its style is known as Neoclassical, a movement that hearkens to the scroll work and other ornamental designs of Greek and Roman antiquity. Adorning the taller coffee pot as well as the teapot are spouts resembling fantastical creatures; the lids all have beautifully ornamented decoration; and the sugar bowl has “pawed feet.” The entire ensemble is as intricately detailed as beautiful pieces of jewelry. These pieces call for the best manners when sitting down to tea and dessert.

Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, France, Sugar Bowl, c. 1760, Decorative Arts Department, 47.35.1c–d, Hearst Magazines, Inc.

The French raised the quality of European tea and coffee wares to a new level in the first part of the 18th century. After unsuccessfully trying to replicate the beautiful porcelain that had been imported into Europe for centuries via the famous Silk Road through Asia, Europeans finally learned the secret ingredient (kaolin clay) and began making true porcelain of their own. This service was made in Sèvres, one of the chief manufacturing centers for French porcelain. All handmade and hand painted, of course, the detailing and artistry are astounding. Visitors to the museum regularly exclaim over the gorgeously ornamented lids and exquisitely painted decorations.

 Thomas Pitts, Epergne, 1763–64, Long-term loan from The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (L.2010.9.24a–y)


Thomas Pitts, Epergne, 1763–64, Long-term loan from The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (L.2010.9.24a–y)

The English aristocracy did their part in turning dessert service into a high art form. This centerpiece, or epergne, created in 176374 by silversmith Thomas Pitts, not only adorned a table, but had a practical purpose: its basket (at center) probably held fresh fruit, which was considered an exotic delicacy in the days before refrigeration. (Note the pineapple finial crowning the epergne, a symbol of luxury goods coming in from foreign lands.) The smaller surrounding baskets held nuts, condiments, and candies. Dinner guests would help themselves. From today’s perspective, self-service is expected, however, in the 18th century, this centerpiece was considered a labor-saving device and was sometimes even referred to as a “machine.”

Attributed to Robert Harrold, China Table, gift of Alice Braunfeld

Attributed to Robert Harrold, China Table, gift of Alice Braunfeld

Colonial Americans were no slouches when it came to manners and customs. They might have been less flashy than their British cousins (many colonists were descended from Puritans, after all), but some accumulated sufficient wealth, which afforded them luxury goods. This dessert (or tea) table, known as a “China table,” is an excellent example. Tea service was a center of social activity in an affluent 18th-century household, and such tables attested to one’s high social standing, since their presence indicated of knowledge of the latest customs from England. This one, made of mahogany (highly prized—and expensive—in colonial America) was made in New England, and its design came from a design book by the well-known English designer, Thomas Chippendale. Not as tall as today’s dining tables, it would have been placed in the most impressive room in the home.

To this day, Americans practice a wide variety of customs when it comes to closing a meal with a beverage and, often, a dessert. There’s a reason why we call a “coffee table” as such, as guests usually move from the kitchen or dining room to another room to enjoy after-dinner libations and conversation. Come to LACMA this Saturday to enjoy the Good Food Pie Contest—and check out the galleries, where you will find these beautiful art works on the third floor of the Art of the Americas Building and the third floors of the Hammer and Ahmanson buildings.

Mary Lenihan, director of adult programs, education and public programs


Johnny Mandel Receives the L.A. Jazz Treasure Award

September 3, 2013

Now in its fifth year, the L.A. Jazz Treasure Award celebrates performers who have made invaluable contributions to the contemporary-jazz community. Mitch Glickman, LACMA’s director of music programs, tells Unframed‘s Stephanie Sykes about the selection of Johnny Mandel as this year’s honoree.

Photo by Carol Friedman

Photo by Carol Friedman

How has the L.A. Jazz Treasure Award evolved over the last five years?
It’s been gratifying to see increased attendance for the free Jazz at LACMA series and our annual L.A. Jazz Treasure Award concert that we do each year with the Los Angeles Jazz Society. While there are certainly numerous special events and fundraisers that honor jazz greats, the L.A. Jazz Treasure Award is part of the free Jazz at LACMA series, and, simply put, the special concert allows the community to say thank you to these jazz legends.How and why was Johnny Mandel selected as this year’s recipient?
The award is given to an L.A.–based musician who has made a lasting contribution to jazz and the local community. I work with the Los Angeles Jazz Society to develop a list, and we try to whittle it down to our more senior jazz treasures. Mandel was selected largely due to his 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, the most prestigious award given to a jazz musician.

Where will we have heard Mandel’s original compositions?


His compositions and arrangements are known the world over. Artists such as Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Natalie Cole, and the Manhattan Transfer have all recorded his songs and arrangements. He has written numerous scores, including MASH, Emily, Deathtrap, and the Academy- and Grammy Award–winning song “The Shadow of Your Smile” from the film The Sandpiper.

What additional highlights can we expect in the remaining Jazz at LACMA series this fall?
Jazz at LACMA runs through Friday, November 22, so there is a lot of great jazz still to come. Highlights include pianist Alan Pasqua, vocaist Dwight Trible, drummer Clayton Cameron, the Ted Howe trio saluting Duke Ellington, and saxophonist Pete Christlieb.

Mandel performs at LACMA’s BP Grand Entrance this Friday, September 6, as part of Jazz at LACMA.

Mitch Glickman, director of music programs
Stephanie Sykes, communications manager


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