The Los Angels Time's Christopher Knight types a few words on Eli Broad's collection on temporary display at the Broad Contemporary Art Musuem on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's campus.
I'm right along with Mr. Knight when he calls a spade a spade:
Yet, mostly the exhibition just looks expensive. Really, really expensive. In deciding what to exhibit, art museums everywhere now strongly favor wealthy collectors over artists and art professionals, and slashed government spending at every level (except defense) keeps contemporary cultural institutions hostage to private interests. Ours is an era of supply-side aesthetics, trickling down on the public. BCAM's loan-show debut is emblematic of the economic elitism humming loudly this presidential election year.After visiting my first big art fair last year (Art Basel in Basel) I came to realize what an efficient object painting is: Because it's flat, it crates up and ships well. The medium has a strong connection to art's historical lineage. In a home, over the sofa or hanging on a museum wall, it's a highly effective signifier of the owner's cultural capital. Unlike time-based or three-dimensional work, the general gestalt of the object is easily captured by a jpeg, and it's significance is easily reinforced through reproductions in the art press and coffee table tomes. Trickle down indeed.
As an effective capitalist, it only makes sense for Eli Broad to collect these objects. This is statistically underscored by a bit of Knight's reporting:
Of 176 works on three floors, 139 are by artists who have shown with the same gallery -- Gagosian, commonly considered today's leading commercial powerhouse. That's nearly 80%. BCAM turns out to be GCAM. Such a narrow vision feels insecure, more investment deal than adventure.Metro's canceled Red Line extension was supposed to pass under Wilshire, in front of LACMA on its way to the West Side. Perhaps Eli can revive the tunnel, if only to truck art from Gagosian in Beverly Hills to the BCAM. The rhetorical posed by Knight's comments, "Do we visit LACMA to look at art or to look at collections?" is answered in the following paragraph:
The only prominent link between Leon Golub's flayed Expressionist paintings of chilling Third World torturers, Roy Lichtenstein's cheeky high-style cartoons and Ellsworth Kelly's shaped abstractions made from pure color is that the Broads bought them all. The collectors' taste is the show's subject, not the art. The misdirection of visitor attention is a primary reason that major museums, such as New York's Museum of Modern Art, maintain a commendable policy of not showing private collections.
At least LACMA got a new building out of the deal.