Breaking News about...Broken Art

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at100209a.jpgIf you're not brave enough to deal with the cold, rainy days upon us here in southern California, I want to suggest a lovely alternative: spend a couple of cozy hours perusing the delicious display of drawings by one of the greatest artists of all time. Several dozen drawings by Rembrandt and his students are on display at the Getty Center in an elegant, imaginatively installed exhibition, where visitors have a chance to participate in an ongoing scholarly debate - which drawings were done by the great master himself, and which by his pupils trying to emulate his style? The catalog accompanying the exhibition is hands-down one of the sexiest museum publications in recent memory, and I wish you could have been with me at last week's Getty symposium, where prominent scholars were debating with verve and unexpected humor the issue of authorship of all these 17th century Dutch drawings.

at100209b.jpgJumping forward three hundred years, but traveling only a few miles from Brentwood to the Hammer Museum, you will find yourself back in our own post-modern era, strolling through the exhibition of drawings by the contemporary British artist Rachel Whiteread, whose enigmatic sculptures of empty spaces deservedly brought her wide recognition. at100209c.jpgA few of these sculptures are on display in the Hammer exhibition, including a model of her deeply moving Holocaust monument in Vienna. I've always loved her sculptures, but many of her drawings come across as a pale shadow of her three-dimensional works. And still, I found here a few works on paper – mostly collages – which deliver a subtle punch, especially the one of the proposed monument for an empty plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.

at100209d.jpgMeanwhile, here in the Wild Wild West, we continue to enjoy the suspense and drama in the ongoing saga of Eli Broad -- the paterfamilias of the LA art scene -- who is trying to find the ideal spot for the museum he wants to build for his vast art collection. According to yesterday's report in the New York Times, his negotiations with the cities of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills were meant only to up the ante on talks with Los Angeles City authorities to build his museum in downtown LA, next to Disney Hall. Considering his long involvement in the ambitious, multi-billion dollar Grand Avenue Project, one can understand the particular interest he has -- both as a businessman and philanthropist -- in seeing his museum built downtown. The problem with Los Angeles, the article says, is not that Mr. Broad casts such a long shadow over the city's cultural landscape, but that there is a conspicuous lack of mighty philanthropists like him willing to step up to the plate.

at100209e.jpgAt this point, you've probably already heard the news of damage to yet another museum masterpiece -- the result of not negligence, but of simple bad luck -- when a visitor to the Metropolitan lost balance and tumbled into a painting by Picasso, causing serious damage. Brings to mind a favorite excuse of former Vice President Dick Cheney: 'Stuff happens.' And indeed, those unfortunate incidents do happen in virtually all museums, but usually kept under wraps, with only a few making headlines. A few years ago, a life-size Renaissance marble sculpture (also at the Met) fell over in the middle of the night and smashed into thousands of pieces. And our French friends had a similar embarrassment with a huge painting by Italian Renaissance artist Paolo Veronese – a signature piece in the Musée du Louvre's collection –- when upon completion of its thorough restoration, the painting was being reinstalled but somehow the installers lost their grip, and the gigantic canvas fell, sustaining a six-foot-long gash. Ouch. Indeed, stuff happens.

Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference
On view at the Getty Center through February 28

Banner image: Visitors at the Louvre in front of Veronese’s Wedding at Cana