Bad News Turned Good News

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There are some situations when it's difficult to decide whether the news is good or bad. A month ago, I read in the LA Times that the sixty-five foot tall sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and, his wife and collaborator, Coosje van Bruggen could not be installed as planned in front of the Disney Concert Hall. The sculpture--in the shape of a giant bowtie and collar-- had already cost the Music Center about $4 million and now, because the metal and fiberglass sculpture had developed dangerous cracks compromising its structure, and therefore its safety, the future of the whole project is uncertain. It's estimated that fixing the problem will cost another $3 million. At this point, there are no funds to cover the additional cost. To add insult to injury, the artists made a statement blaming the engineers for the structural problems and accepting no responsibility for this situation. To be completely honest, I don't find this development all that upsetting. After all, I have said before that Frank Gehry's Disney Hall is a remarkable sculpture in its own right, and doesn't need another sculpture in front of it that would only distract people from viewing the great building.

I have another piece of good news that started off as bad news. The masterpiece by Los Angeles's celebrated architect, John Lautner, an 850 square-foot room designed by him as an office, was close to being demolished after the ownership of the property changed. At the eleventh hour, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art stepped in and saved the day. The 35-by-25 foot architectural landmark will be moved and reassembled on one of the floors of the former May Company building which is owned by the Museum. There is a plan to use this architectural gem as a small lecture hall as well as a working office. And for this our collective gratitude goes to LACMA.

And here is just some plain old-fashioned good news. You can read in today's New York Times about the new $20 million charity, United States Artists, which plans to begin giving a $50,000 individual grant to 50 different American artists every year--no strings attached. Four foundations collaborated by putting their financial muscles together with the bulk of the money ($15 million) provided by the Ford Foundation and the rest by the Rockefeller, Prudential and the Alaska-based Rasmuson Foundation. Since the National Endowment for the Arts was under constant attack by conservatives it stopped giving out individual grants to the artist in an attempt to avoid further controversy. So, it's great to see this new development celebrating the creativity of individuals without whom the whole notion of culture in this country would be impoverished.

And in final news, Taschen recently published an excellent book, Collecting Contemporary by Adam Lindemann which I found to be a rare, no nonsense, yet highly entertaining guide to collecting contemporary art. The book is based on forty-one interviews with key players in today's art market including major collectors, museum directors and top gallery dealers. I expect to see a few of them next week during the international symposium on “The Art Museum and the Art Market” at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Stay tuned for more news upon my return from mother Russia.

Suzanne Muchnic, "'Collar and Bow' Comes Untied," Calendar Weekend: Los Angeles Times, Thursday, July 27, 2006, E6


Bob Pool, "Preservationists Score an Office Coup," Los Angeles Times, Saturday, August 5, 2006, B1

Stephanie Strom, "New Charity to Start Plan for $50,000 Artists' Grants," The New York Times, Tuesday, September 5, 2006, B1