What would A Christmas Day Art Talk be without Mr. Scrooge? His latest misdeed is a royal screw-up of a major cultural exchange between Russia and Great Britain. A few weeks before the opening in London of a blockbuster exhibition from the Hermitage and three other major museums, the Russians called it off.
They claim that the British government failed to provide full assurances protecting the loaned masterpieces, including the Matisse 'Dance,' against possible legal claims from ancestors of Russian collectors who owned these paintings before the 1917 October Revolution. Some suggest that the real beef is political tension over the murder of a Russian dissident, Alexander Litvinenko, which happened in London last year. The Brits are demanding the extradition of the main suspect in the case, a Russian citizen living in Moscow, but the Ruskies have flatly refused.
You absolutely must visit Art Talk on the KCRW website to check out the hilarious cartoon based on Matisse with Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as two of the dancers.
Meanwhile, here in our City of Angels, the art scene is bright and bubbly: neither Scrooge nor Grinch can steal the Christmas spirit. The Museum of Contemporary Art show of Takashi Murakami is enjoying the highest attendance of any living artist exhibition in the museum's history. The Getty Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a bouquet of exhibitions, among them the exceptional 'Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art.'
And the Huntington Library, after a $20 million renovation, is getting ready to reopen its world famous Art Gallery.
But it was a recent sneak peek at what's going on behind the scenes at LACMA that gave me the biggest thrill of this season of joy. It's only two months away from the unveiling of the new museum pavilion designed by Renzo Piano and named Broad Contemporary Art Museum, in honor of Los Angeles philanthropist/collector Eli Broad and his wife, Edyth. Once more, I urge you to go to the KCRW website to look at the exclusive pictures of the construction site I was allowed to visit the other day. Compared to LACMA's dark and bulky older buildings, the elegant and spacious Broad Museum is bathed in daylight a trademark of Piano's architecture which has made him the most sought-after architect for major museum projects around the world.
I marveled at the rusty curves of the two latest gigantic sculptures by Richard Serra dominating the ground-floor galleries of the new pavilion. And who could resist the sophistication and innocent charm of Chris Burden's installation of 200 antique streetlights the artist collected from all over Los Angeles?
To be honest, I was nursing a small grudge against LACMA for preventing me from getting a early look at the surprise gift of the Janice and Henri Lazarof Collection - including works by Picasso, Giacometti and Brancusi.
But all was forgiven when I was invited to see the museum boardroom and director's office - magically transformed by John Baldessari in the spirit of the recent Magritte exhibition. You have to see it to believe it. Merry Christmas.
Through February 11, 2008
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90013
'Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art
Through January 20, 2008
J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049-1687
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036