It's been a whole week since the dawning of a new era, with President Obama urging fellow citizens to work harder rather than sending us to shop our way out of trouble. I can honestly say that I've never worked harder than this last week; it was all art, all the time, and then some. Judge for yourself.
Immediately after the inauguration ceremony, sorting through notes and collecting my thoughts, I sat down and wrote the weekly Art Talk, titled, "Obama as Art Czar?" I hope you know that I do write the text of this program, and not just speak extemporaneously into the microphone. It takes four or five hours before Art Talk is ready for prime time.
Then, I started to strategize for the rest of the week, which besides the usual daily responsibilities, had art related assignments each evening as well. Wednesday night was the opening of the annual Los Angeles Art Show in its new location, the Convention Center downtown, where about 170 dealers from around the world displayed their wares. Fair organizers did their best to make the cavernous exhibition space welcoming, but couldn't overcome its impersonal nature. Most of the dealers were very cautious, if not outright conservative, in selecting art for their booths. As a result, it felt as if we were not in 2009, but back in the early 90's in some provincial safe haven.
Another fair, Art LA, which opened Thursday night at the Barker Hangar in the Santa Monica Airport, was smaller, more focused, and definitely more cutting-edge. There were only 60 dealers, but there were more surprises and discoveries to be made in their booths. While I went to the downtown fair only once, I visited Barker Hangar three days in a row – once for the opening, and then twice more, taking groups of collectors on a tour through the fair.
Friday morning started with a press conference at LACMA for the opening of the huge, ambitious exhibition, "Art of Two Germanys," telling the complicated story of art development during the Cold War in the two countries separated by the Berlin Wall. There are about 300 artworks by 120 artists on display, and to my pleasant surprise, the dramatic energy of this exhibition has completely transformed the cool, austere galleries of Renzo Piano's Broad Pavilion.
In the evening, I went to the Santa Monica Museum of Art for the opening of the new exhibition by Ethiopian artist Elias Simé, whose intricate embroidered paintings and wood sculptures transcend their humble materials. You will be surprised by the transformation of the museum space, which probably has a lot to do with well-known theater director Peter Sellars' involvement with this exhibition.
Saturday turned out to be another day of heavy art lifting. It started with the five hour seminar I organized for a group of art collectors. In the evening, I went back to LACMA for the official opening of the German exhibition, and though I was exhausted, the art and very interesting crowd kept me going. Monday night I went to LACMA once more for a special walk-through of the German exhibition with curator Stephanie Barron; after that I rushed across the museum campus to another event, a lecture by the director of London's extraordinary, but little-known John Soane Museum, a private treasure trove of architectural history.
I wish I could have found time last Friday to zoom to the Palm Springs Art Museum for the opening of the exhibition of portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe. But I'm definitely planning to go this Wednesday to the USC Fisher Museum of Art for a performance by Mexican artist/provocateur Guillermo Gómez-Peña, winner of the MacArthur Genius award. If President Obama had the chance to check out my busy schedule this past week, I wonder, would it meet with his approval?
Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures
On view at LACMA's Broad Contemporary Art Museum through April 19, 2009
Elias Simé: Eye of the Needle, Eye of the Heart
On view at the Santa Monica Museum of Art through April 18
Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits
On view at the Palm Springs Art Museum through April 19
Banner image: A.R. Penck, Der Übergang (Passage), 1963 (detail); Oil on canvas, 37 x 47 1/4 in (94 x 120 cm; Sammlung Ludwig, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, © A.R. Penck