Los Angeles hills are alive with the sounds of… art

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In 2012, one of the major Los Angeles art dealers, Margo Leavin, announced that, after 42 years, she is closing her gallery. And, what a glorious 42 years it had been. One could hear the collective moan of heartbreak coming from all of us Angelenos who live and breathe art.

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(T) Margo Leavin (green jacket) with guests at the UCLA Benefit Exhibition and Art Sale, June 3, 2017
(B) UCLA Benefit Exhibition and Art Sale
Images courtesy UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture

Last year, UCLA's School of the Arts and Architecture made an announcement that it had received a $20 million gift from its alumna – yes, the one and only Margo Leavin. This gift will help to rebuild and expand the University's existing graduate program facilities in Culver City. "The new studios will also include public exhibition space and an artist-in-residence studio that will further enrich the department's engagement with the arts community locally and globally" (UCLA).

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Johnston Marklee concept design for UCLA Graduate Art Studios, Culver City, California, 2011
Image courtesy Johnston Marklee

10 days ago, several hundred people gathered in Culver City for a UCLA fundraiser exhibition and art sale to benefit the new art studios, designed by prominent Los Angeles architectural firm Johnston Marklee. Everyone was there: artists, museum directors, curators, gallerists, and private collectors. And, it was great to see Margo Leavin there, being greeted and hugged by all the guests.

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Nicolas Berggruen, Chairman of the Berggruen Institute
Image courtesy Financial Times

Los Angeles' cultural landscape continues to grow with surprising announcements. Billionaire art philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen is busy planning and building the Berggruen Institute on several hundred acres of land not that far from the Getty Center. The focus of the Institute is "research on public-policy reform, culture, and ‘intelligent governance'" (LA Times). After interviewing a number of architectural firms, Berggruen's choice for this project was Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, famous for designing London's Tate Modern.

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Street view of the soon-to-be Berggruen Institute, Los Angeles
Image courtesy Google Maps

A month ago, the Berggruen Institute announced its acquisition of a historic Spanish Revival-style 1924 building in mid-city, near MacArthur Park. It will house "administrative space and areas for public programs and exhibitions, as well as room for scholars in residence" (LA Times).

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Chris Burden, "Metropolis II," 2010
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Photograph courtesy LACMA

One wonders what Berggruen will choose to do with his famous sculpture by Chris Burden, Metropolis II, which is currently on loan to LACMA. Will he move it to his Institute in the Santa Monica Mountains? Or, to its satellite location in MacArthur Park?

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MAD Architects' concept design renderings for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles
Images courtesy the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

And, did you hear the news about George Lucas who, after ten years of trying to build his museum in San Francisco and Chicago, ultimately succeeded in getting the OK from Los Angeles? His $1 billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, with a collection of 10,000 paintings and illustrations along with Hollywood memorabilia, will be built in Downtown in Exposition Park, near the Coliseum. The design for the museum is by Chinese architect Ma Yansong. May the force be with you, Mr. Lucas.

As the saying goes, one cannot be too rich, too thin, or have too many cultural institutions in one city. Amen.



Benjamin Gottlieb