Los Angeles county museum of art (lacma)

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Los angeles county museum of art


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General Overview:

            Officially established in 1961 as a museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (also referred to as LACMA) todate showcases more 100,000 works of art – the period covering the ancient times to the modern times.  This gives LACMA the distinction of being the biggest art museum in the Western part of the United States.

            Its mission is “To serve the public through the collection, conservation, exhibition, and interpretation of significant works of art from a broad range of cultures and historical periods, and through the translation of these collections into meaningful educational, aesthetic, intellectual, and cultural experiences for the widest array of audiences.”  (About LACMA, 2006)

Housed in the 20-acres block surrounded by Wilshire Boulevard, Fairfax Avenue and 6th Street in the center of Los Angeles City, California –  the museum is a 7-building complex that has attained for itself an international status due to the extremely varied guests and exhibitions and programs that transpire in the venue.  The entire complex is made up of:

            The Ahmanson Building  that houses the African Art collection; the Modern Art collection; the Art of the Ancient World collection; the European Art collection; the Middle Eastern Art collection; the South and Southeast Asian Art collection; the Robert Gore Rifkind Gallery for German Expressionism; and the bookstore.  In this building, LACMA will also open the Costume and Textiles exhibits

            The Art of Americas Building houses the Latin American Art/Art of the Ancient Americas.  The Dorothy Collins Brown Auditorium is located in this building, together with special exhibition venues and the art rental and sales gallery.

            The Bing Center houses the Plaza Café and the Leo S. Bing Theater, which has an audience seating capacity of 600.  The Broad Contemporary Art Museum houses the contemporary art collection.   It has three floors and its exhibition space has a size of 60,000 sqft.      The Hammer Building will be the venue of the Chinese and Korean Art collections.  That section is undergoing renovation and will be officially presented to the public in 2009. In the Hammer Building – other special exhibition venues are located together with the photography section.  It also has a gift store and the Pentimento Restaurant.  The LACMA West Building houses the newly refurbished Bonne Children’s Gallery.

            Finally, the most remarkable structure in the LACMA Complex, the Pavilion for Japanese Art, as designed by a most renowned architectural visionary, Bruce Goff, t is a distinctive venue of the very comprehensive collection of Japanese Art.

General Information:

            The Los Angeles Country Museum of Art is regularly opened every day of the week, except on Wednesdays.  It however observes holidays and closes on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.   On weekdays, the museum is open from 12 noon to 8 p.m. and during weekends, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Admission is free only during 2nd Tuesdays every month and except for ticketed exhibitions.  Otherwise general admission tickets cost:  $12 for adults; $8 for Senior Citizens and Students. Children aged 17 and below are admitted free at all times.  As the Transformation Project is still ongoing, the Chinese Art; the Costume and Textiles and the Korean Art collections are still not on display.

            LACMA offers public programs for all of its visitors and audiences, as handled and managed by its various departments.  The Education Department handle exhibition brochures, gallery guides, symposium, talks, audio tours, art courses, documentary and film video series, family programming and outreach programs.  The Film Department manages the celebration of cinema all through the times.  The department showcases different local and international films in its studios in the complex.  The Department of Music presents concerts and music programs covering jazz, Latin and classical music.  LACMA has also merchandising activities through its shops and bookstores that sells memorabilia and books.

General Background:

            The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was initially a part of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in 1910.  Its art pieces at the time are works that were just loaned.  The next decade in the 20s-30s saw the awakening of support from the public that enable the venue to modestly expand.  Endowments in Asian art, costumes and textiles were donated.  Onwards to the 40s and the 50s, further inspiration came forth from the collection of European and American traditional Arts, together with Egyptian Art as mostly donated by LACMA’s biggest donor of all time – William Randolph Hearst.  This inspired the establishment of an honest to goodness art museum.  Thus, Allan Hancock donated his Wilshire Boulevard land and in 1961 the official birth of LACMA came forth.  And all through out the 60s until the 90’s the subsequent development of the entire complex was carried out, highlighted by the acquisition of the corner lot of Wilshire/Fairfax that extended the size of the complex to its present 20 acres.

            The dawn of the 21st century invigorated the development of LACMA with aesthetics and landscaping renovations.  Finally, it was in 2004 that the peak of development came through the project called as “The Transformation”.  The impeccable vision of Architect Renzo Piano was mandated to oversee and implement the project.  The project transforms LACMA from the inside to the outside while incorporated techniques that drew more light to view their art collections and exhibitions; recreating the gardens, lawn, landscape and the park surround the property and a floor plan that conveniently and efficiently navigates the entire collection of LACMA.  Phase I of the project is the Broad Contemporary Art Museum that was completed in February 2008.  Phase II is composed of the Resnick Pavillion.  This will be completed in 2010.

The Pavilion for Japanese Art:

            It is imminent and focal to describe this unique and feature of LACMA because the collection is very comprehensive and extremely and dynamically organized in an encyclopedic method.  And the date of the collection spans from 3000 years B.C. up to the 20th century.

            From the archeological pieces, Buddhist and Shinto sculpture, ceramics, in the 2nd level of the West Wing gallery.  The arrangement of the display is serene yet elaborate and the display is rotated.  The collection of Japanese prints are likewise rotated and they are composed of traditional woodblocks of the Edo period (late 18th and early 19th centuries.  What created the most impact amongst the Japanese print collection are the nearly 2,000 prints collected from 1868 until 1989 – i.e., the Meiji, the Taisho and the Showa Periods.  The arrangement of the collections is revised every quarter of the year to offer novelty.

            The very impressive layout of the exhibition space of the Japanese Art Pavillion is highlighted by the East Wing.  Six-level in the East Wing displays the paintings from the Edo period; the works of the Rimpa “ukiyo-e”; the Maruyama-Shijo; Zen monks.  These exquisite paintings are lit naturally by sunlight as it gently streams thru the panels of the structure which are made of fiberglass.  The viewing therefore makes the experience so natural and exotic as dimensional levels are created.  From a distance, Japanese screens are displayed and at closer look, the scrolls are viewed.  It is similar to a “tokonoma” viewing inside a Japanese home.

            A Netsuke Gallery is located on the plaza level of the pavilion.  This offers the distinctive view of miniature sculptures, on all sides.  “Netsuke” are accessories that serves as toggle and counterweight from the sash of the kimono of Japanese men.  These suspend hanging purses.  The Netsuke Gallery has 836 works of 17th to 20th century period.  The works are grouped in 150s and organized into themes, like the “Inro” medicinal lacquer boxes.  The Netsuke Gallery collection is rotated every quarter, again to present novelty in the display technique of LACMA.

Display Highlights:

            The highlights of the collection displayed in the Pavilion of Japanese Art are composed of the following:

“Anonymous Vessel”:  Middle Jomon Period (around 3000 to 2000 BC).  It is made of coil-built earthenware that features incised, modeled and applied decoration.  This pottery vessel is  22 1/8 inches in height and was made during the very early stages of the ceramic culture of Japan.  It is a very intriguing Neolithic piece of work in LACMA as it is one of those elaborately crafted and decorated piece made in central Japan and found in the Nagano and Niigata prefectures.

“Anonymous Stationery Box”:  around 17th century.  It is made of lacquer and accentuated by mother-of-pearl inlay and “maki-e” (sprinkled powder).  The size is 5 ¼ x 13 ¼ x 16 ¼ inches.  This art piece represent the repository of writing paraphernalia of ancient Japan and considered as one of the most notable contributions to decorative arts.  The lacquer material is transformed to an exquisite beauty because of the “maki-e” and the mother-of-pearl.  This artistic rendering symbolizes the homage and reverence that East Asian civilization extends to their writing materials (brush and ink and paper) and the words produced from them.

“Sokan Scroll”:  16th century.  It is a hanging paper scroll depicting a mountain landscape painting that is rendered in ink and light color.  The size is 32 ¾ x 15 3/8 inches.  Sokan is the name of the painter as identified by his seal on the lower left corner of the scroll.  The painting on the scroll followed the monochromatic ink style established around 14th century.  It can be noted that there is a 2-dimensional rendering of the foreground, the middle ground and background of the scenery through a spatial treatment.  The treatment of the atmosphere is void.  The mountain peaks are diminished and the brushstrokes are layered thus tonal contrasts were created.

“Anonymouse Haniwa”:  around Years 500-600, otherwise known as the Tumulus Period.  It is a coil-built earthenware with decorations.  The size is 31 x 14 3/8 x 15 in.  It is a tomb sculpture of a seated warrior.  The cylindrical figure is used to decorate the tombs of the nobility during the Tumulus period.  The materials used were reddish, low-fired, iron-rich clay.

“South Wind, Clear Dawn” by Katsushika Hokusai:  18th century.  It is color woodblock print in the size of 10 x 14 3/8 inches.  This piece belongs to the artist’s series of prints that creates 36 different views of Mt. Fuji.  This particular print is also known as “Red Fuji”, that represents “economy”.  It is because only 3 colors and a single outline were used to emphasize the weight of the composition.  Thus, tense asymmetry was created.  The result is so perfect that it is considered one of the most successful works in printmaking.

The Total Experience:

            Visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is an encompassing and very rewarding and learned journey.    A total appreciation however can only be achieved if more than one visit is made.  From the physical structure of the property complex to the astute organization, presentation of the displays to the general management and public relationship of the staff – the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art is a total pride.  With the million of visitors it caters to everyday, the venue is truly a most remarkable landmark in America.


“All About LACMA”.  2006.

            The official website of the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art



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