The front-page news about the sale of Gustav Klimt's famous, shimmering gold portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer for an unconfirmed $135 million made me surprisingly happy. To be completely honest, my proprietary instinct would rather have all five Klimt paintings stay here in LA, yet I have to admit that this iconic painting is ideally suited for the focused collection and exquisite environment of the Neue Galerie in New York. After hearing this news, I jumped into the car and hurried over to LACMA to say goodbye to the five canvases which after June 30 will leave LA for the Neue Galerie, where they are going to be on view for a few months. The fate of the other four paintings is still uncertain but let's hope that at least one of them--another mesmerizing full-length portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer--will be acquired by a public museum as well.
While at LACMA, I checked out the recently opened exhibition of portraits by Los Angeles' very own--though still very British--David Hockney. This traveling exhibition, a collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and LACMA, is meant to celebrate one of the most popular artists of our time, whose career spans almost half a century. However, I left the exhibition with a sense of sadness: along with a number of deservedly, well-known early portraits of his parents, intimate friends and inhabitants of his newly adopted city, LA, there are a number of marginal paintings that, in my opinion, unwittingly emphasize weaknesses in his art. Many of his recent portraits, instead of coming across as spontaneous, look hurried and indifferent. It is as if the artist isn't very interested in the person posing for him. For example, the portraits of the museum guards from the National Portrait Gallery looked to me especially disappointing with their disproportionately small heads painted in a distinctly different style from the rest of their bodies. When Hockney is deeply moved one senses it immediately, as exemplified in the numerous portraits of his mother and in his recent watercolor landscapes of the English countryside seen in the LA Louver Gallery last year. But so many recent portraits, including those of people I happen to know, look as if the artist's heart and mind were somewhere else. With better editing, this exhibition could have been a real homage to the career of this much-loved artist but, unfortunately, this is not the case.
Meanwhile, there are two gallery exhibitions that you absolutely should not miss. The only thing they have in common is that both were virtually sold out before the opening, otherwise, they are a study in contrasts: one is quiet and meditative, the other is boastful and unabashedly garish. Modestly scaled, jewel-like paintings by Sharon Ellis on view at Christopher Grimes Gallery are inspired by California's landscape. They are the result of a meticulous and meditative process of filling the surface of the canvas with haunting images and shadows of nature with only passing references to the real world that we inhabit. Huge portraits of African American men painted by Kehinde Wiley are installed at Roberts & Tilton Gallery with operatic grandeur and garish glamour. And that is the point. The men have the look and attitude of rappers but their poses and gestures intentionally evoke those associated with Old Master paintings. It's difficult to predict where Mr. Wiley's art will go from here. With his over the top approach toward size, color and composition, he's not just pushing the envelope, he's almost tearing it apart. And he's doing it with such flourish that no matter how much one tries, it's impossible to resist.
Gustav Klimt: Five Paintings from the Collection of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer
On view until June 30
David Hockney: Portraits
On view until September 4
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Kehinde Wiley: Columbus
On view until July 8
Roberts & Tilton
6150 Wilshire Boulevard
The Fine Art of Art Collecting
Five Saturday Classes with Edward Goldman,
art critic and host of KCRW's Art Talk
July 8 - August 12
We will be meeting every consecutive Saturday (except for August 5) for five hours from 10:30am-3:30pm. We will meet prominent art collectors in their homes, visit well-known artists' studios and go "behind the scenes" with directors of top galleries. Throughout all of these classes we will be discussing the "nuts and bolts" of art collecting.
The class will be limited to 20 participants and the fee is $500.00. To secure your place in the class, please email Edward Goldman. Register as soon as possible as half the spaces are already filled.
Every participant may, at least once, bring a guest. If you cannot attend one of the meetings invite someone to attend in your place... that would make a good gift to a friend.