Gods of Architecture Smile Upon LA

Hosted by

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy Wikimedia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MOCA_LA_04.jpg)

One month ago, when the announcement was made that the 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize had been awarded to Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, I thought the timing couldn’t be any better. After all – this is the year that our Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is celebrating its 40 th anniversary, and the museum’s impressive building on Grand Avenue was built by Isozaki. It was his first project in the United States.

Portrait of Architect Arata Isozaki. Courtesy Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/manel_armengol/9700507122)

Isozaki, at age 87, is the oldest recipient of this most important architectural prize. But as they say, good things happen to those who know how to wait… With this announcement, we Angelenos can celebrate the fact that within walking distance in Downtown, we now have three iconic buildings that were designed and built by Pritzker Prize winners.

Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Courtesy Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dexxus/1609904186)

Just think about Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall built in 2003, which is kitty-corner from Isozaki’s MOCA. Gehry received his Pritzker Prize in 1989, when he was only 60 years old, long before the Guggenheim Bilbao museum made him a global celebrity.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels — entry courtyard with fountain, in Downtown Los Angeles, California. Courtesy Wikimedia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lacathedral.jpg)

And, let’s walk a couple blocks North on Grand Avenue to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. It was built in 2002, by Spanish architect José Rafael Moneo, who won his Pritzker Prize in 1996, when he was 59 years old. I cannot think about any other city around the world but our City of Angels in which one can find, next to each other, three iconic buildings – dramatically different in their design and also in their material. Isozaki selected red Indian sandstone, Gehry chose stainless steel, and Moneo used adobe colored concrete.

Ed Ruscha. The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, 1968. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. Photo © Lee Stalsworth

All the above makes me think about the uncertain fate of an iconic Modernist building, designed by William Pereira in 1965 – the first structure of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. There is a much-discussed controversial plan to erase Pereira’s building, along with other original structures of LACMA, in favor of a new, imposing building that will bridge over Wilshire Boulevard. I wonder what renowned Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha thinks about demolishing the original building, which inspired one of his most famous paintings from 1968, titled Los Angeles County Museum on Fire.

Jeff Koons. Rabbit, 1986. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Now, my friends, I want to alert you of the chance to see some great art this weekend, at Christie’s showroom in Beverly Hills. There are several dozen masterpieces of Impressionist, Modern, Post-War, and Contemporary art. And before I tell you more, I hope you are sitting down. Van Gogh’s landscape is estimated to be sold for about $25 million. Cezanne’s still life is estimated at $40 million. But, Jeff Koons’ shiny Rabbit sculpture is estimated between $50-70 million.

Paul Cezanne. Bouilloire et fruits, 1888-1890. Oil on canvas. Image courtesy Christie’s.

There is something wrong with this picture… why are the great masterpieces of European 19 th century art valued at half the price of Jeff Koons’ Contemporary work? The only answer I have is that Koons has become a “must have” for billionaire collectors. It doesn’t take much time for them to love his work, which grabs their attention with its size and bright colors. They can stand in front of his shiny art and see their reflections. These collectors have a lot of money, but what they don’t have is the time and patience to learn and appreciate art history. To be a great collector, one must be willing not only to spend money, but to educate and challenge oneself.



Kathleen Yore