Chronicling Art in L.A.

Yesterday, I attended the press conference for Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, an initiative led by the Getty Foundation that funds the investigation of art created in post-World War II Los Angeles via exhibitions at institutions ranging from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Fifteen shows, including LACMA’s California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way”, will roll out starting in 2011. The program, which has been in the works for several years, began with the idea that we must archive our artistic legacy here in L.A. Aside from Southern California museums, perhaps no entity has better maintained the city’s artistic history, chronicling its shift from a cultural backwater to a thriving arts capital, than the L.A. Times. Suzanne Muchnic’s Sunday story deftly records this latest achievement, both summing up and illuminating P.S.T. It’s particularly gratifying to read such a thoughtful, in-depth piece in a paper that has as of late suffered well-publicized cutback after cutback.

Many have noted that arts coverage in L.A. has declined in recent years. Anecdotally, many of the journalists that I’ve enjoyed working with at the L.A. Times over the years have been laid off, including a few in this most recent round. We museums can maintain our own histories, but isn’t thoughtful third-party reporting integral to our history as well? I worry that now, as Los Angeles is finally achieving credence as an art center, its paper is simultaneously shrinking. We’ve finally made it and it seems to me we need our paper more than ever.

Allison Agsten

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