Last week Los Angeles hosted what sports fans would probably call a perfect trifecta of cultural events. First, the Museum of Contemporary Art celebrated its 30th anniversary with a huge, lavish gala attended by 1,000 art patrons, many of whom flew in just for the occasion. The chosen theme for the gala was the glamour associated with the Ballet Russes and its legendary impresario, Sergei Diaghilev, whose spirit was channeled by the wonderful Michael York. The dining guests were mightily entertained by the Bolshoi Ballet dancers, with a side helping of Lady Gaga, whom yours truly had never seen or heard of before, but nevertheless was impressed by. I won't even attempt to describe here the dozens of surprises I encountered walking through the completely new and inspiring installation of the museum's permanent collection masterminded by Chief Curator Paul Schimmel; that's better left for another day.
What was the second event? The Broad Art Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary by inviting a few hundred guests to their Santa Monica headquarters to have a look at some highlights from their extensive collection of contemporary art, including stellar examples by such LA artists as John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Lari Pittman, and John Sonsini. It was a welcome opportunity to see the collection, usually open only to scholars and students.
Now, I can almost hear you breathing heavily, dying to know which event completed this trifecta. But slow down – as there were a few art happenings vying for this honor, the choice is not that easy. The endlessly entrepreneurial Larry Gagosian, knowing that a number of heavy hitters would be coming to town, put his best foot forward with an exhibition of new paintings by Jeff Koons at his Beverly Hills gallery.
LA Louver Gallery, for the same reason, I would presume, organized an especially appealing and elegantly installed exhibition featuring works by Ed and Nancy Kienholz, Gajin Fujita, Deborah Butterfield, and David Hockney, among others.
However, there is one more contender fighting to be included in this trifecta of major cultural events, and that is the perfectly timed news release announcing Eli Broad's negotiation with the City of Santa Monica about the possibility of building next to City Hall a museum to house his impressive collection of art. Considering that Mr. Broad is technically still in negotiations regarding the very same matter with the City of Beverly Hills, you must appreciate his skill at forcing these two cities to compete with each other for his proposed museum, causing a minor media frenzy that for a moment nearly eclipsed all other cultural news.
It's impossible not to think about a similarly well-timed announcement less than two years ago, when only a day before the opening of the new Broad Museum of Contemporary Art on the LACMA campus, Mr. Broad told the New York Times that he intended only to exhibit his collection there rather than to donate it to the museum as was widely expected – thus dropping a bomb that left LACMA authorities literally speechless while putting the philanthropist front and center, exactly the way he likes.
Jeff Koons: New Paintings
On view at Gagosian Beverly Hills through January 9, 2010
On view at LA Louver through December 31
Banner: Gajin Fujita, Play Mate (detail), 2007