Highlights of 2012

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As we look back on 2012, who can forget the rock? And who can doubt that even Michael Govan, LACMA's director, was surprised by the outpouring of public support for an art event that in many ways is uniquely LA. Conveniently coinciding with MOCA's exhibition "Land Art" that surveyed an ambitious art movement of the 1970's, Michael Heizer's six-ton boulder was moved inch by inch, day by day, from its Riverside quarry to Wilshire and Fairfax.

Michael Heizer, "Levitated Mass," 2012
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Michael Heizer, photo by Tom Vinetz

Unveiled, it appeared that a desert with a rock formation had mysteriously surfaced behind the museum, bringing to mind the ways in which the LA landscape has been repeatedly reconfigured in all manner of inventive fantasies over the years. Even the cost of this performance, privately funded, did not stir outrage after Govan explained that it was creating much needed jobs. And the famously reclusive Heizer turned up for the opening, graciously talking to the curious public.

Ken Price, "Zizi," 2011
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Purchased with funds provided by
the Modern and Contemporary Art Acquisition Fund and gift of Matthew Marks (M.2011.96)
© Ken Price. Photo © Fredrik Nilsen

Then there was the opening of "Ken Price Sculpture," a retrospective of ceramic concoction by the widely admired artist who had shown with Ferus Gallery in the 1960's. He passed away earlier this year but worked with Frank Gehry on the installation and with LACMA curator Stephanie Barron on the gorgeous catalogue.

Giotto di Bondone, "Christ Blessing with Saint John the Evangelist, the Virgin Mary,
Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Francis (Peruzzi Altarpiece)," about 1309–1315
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh
Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

That show remains on view through January 6 and in the same building, curator Patrice Marandel's captivating exhibition, "Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy," offers a unique opportunity to see a number of the volatile, mysterious artist's paintings and his influence on other artists. This show is an unparalleled success in an extremely compatible installation by architect Frederick Fisher.

Meanwhile, the Getty offers "Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350," an unprecedented exhibition by curator Christine Sciacca featuring seven Giotto paintings, the most ever seen together in this country. Presented alongside illuminated manuscripts of the same period, we see why Florence gave rise to the Italian Renaissance. Few have had the opportunity to see the early panel paintings from churches and altars alongside the paintings on paper used by monks and noble families. Believers in Christmas, or not, could hardly do better than to take in shows of Caravaggio and Giotto in this season of wonder. Both shows continue through February 10. For more information, go to LACMA.org or Getty.edu.

Banner image: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, "Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy," circa 1595. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund. Photo © Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art