One Can Never Be Too Rich, Too Thin, or Have Too Many Museums

Hosted by

Several years ago, I visited Berlin for eight days, and spent most of my time there going from one museum to another. Still, considering that there are 175 museums in Berlin, I probably needed at least another month to see them all.

We, Angelinos, are not yet in danger of such museum invasion, but the latest news on the artistic front shows that new private museums are slowly encroaching on our City of Angels. So my friends, fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride with billionaire collectors, their big egos, and the staggering amount of dough they spend on the likes of Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst.


Allora & Calzadilla, “Petrified Petrol Pump No. 2,” 2010
Guess jeans headquarters. Los Angeles


Yesterday's article in the New York Times reported that the Marciano brothers, founders of the Guess clothing empire and prominent contemporary art collectors, recently purchased a former Masonic temple on Wilshire Boulevard. It's hard to miss this imposing white stone structure while driving along Wilshire Blvd between La Brea and Western. The building has been empty for almost two decades and obviously needs renovations. In less than two years, the Marciano brothers plan to invite the public to step into this former Masonic temple to view their rapidly growing art collection.


The Broad. Los Angeles
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the Broad Proposal 2014
Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro


Meanwhile, the Broad Foundation just sent out an announcement inviting members of the press to a hard-hat tour of its new museum in downtown LA. Initially, it was scheduled to open in 2012, but as it inevitably happens with ambitious projects such as this, the opening date has been pushed back to 2014.

So as the saying goes, one can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many museums.


(L) Catcher in the Rye
(R) Portrait of J. D. Salinger on book cover

Here is more food for thought: in another New York Times article, there is a review of the new biography of J. D. Salinger. Great American writer, great mystery… After his famous Catcher in the Rye, Salinger went into virtual silence. This new biography once again talks about him being traumatized by his experiences of combat during World War II and the horror of seeing burned corpses in concentration camps. So, let me quote from this article, "Salinger…tried to grapple with his post-traumatic stress disorder first with art and later with religion: 'The war broke him as a man and made him a great artist; religion offered him postwar spiritual solace and killed his art.'"


Portrait of Ranier Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Every time I read about a great artist who, in the midst of his or her career, turns towards religion to resolve inner turmoil, I know that the price to pay will be the deflating of the very tension that makes their art so powerfully disturbing and challenging. There is a famous story about German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), who had been devastated by the experience of World War I. His friends tried to talk him into using Freudian therapy to help him overcome various psychological issues. After attending a few sessions, Rilke understood that there was a bigger issue at stake than his mental well being, and that was the well being of his art. He famously told his friends that if he continued with therapy his demons would leave, and he's afraid that his angels would follow.

Just think for a moment about the most talented, prolific and disturbed artist whose great art is inseparable from his encroaching madness. Of course we are talking about Vincent Van Gogh. As decent human beings, wouldn't we all wish him to receive effective treatment to help him regain normalcy? Of course we would. But as art lovers, how would we cope with the scary thought that so many masterpieces of his –a treasured part of our common heritage –never would have been brought to life had Van Gogh been cured?


Banner image: Scottish Rite Temple in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Folkert Gorter