BCAM’s Unintentional Performance Art?

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Broad Contemporary Art Museum building under construction
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Broad Contemporary Art Museum building under construction Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles County Art Museum has a shiny new building, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum. It is a welcome addition of large, beautiful space to the institutional LA art scene, with Jeff Koon’s “Tulips" offering a shiny welcome in the entrance plaza. Once you pass the ticket check, an escalator takes you to the top floor to begin your visit with a splash of the top works of the last fifty years.

The inaugural exhibition is set up to show groups of works by various artists, a change up from the “one-piece-per" that often limits a period survey. The galleries have walls that allow for room-like groupings, and the work was installed with plenty of space to let it and the viewers breathe.

But what’s the story on the security guards? They are everywhere – even present in LACMA’s own picture in the link above. I got one in my snapshot of “Tulips." They were in every quadrant of the galleries, hovering like nervous nannies. There was one stationed less than three feet from the Jeff Koon’s stainless steel balloon-like “Rabbit" at all times. “Rabbit" is barely more than three feet tall itself, and so the experience of it was dwarfed by the aggressive presence of the guard. Not that I’m a fan of roping off work, but a discrete foot high rope four feet out could have done a similar job of keeping sticky fingers off the steel, while affording the viewer an uninhibited 360 view.

The final indignity was their presence in the Serra galleries on the lowest floor. Interacting with a Serra is a deeply personal experience for me, as I like to take the time to really feel the emotional manipulation inherent in the spaces his work creates. Serra’s “Band" is a continuous ribbon of undulating steel that takes you through interior and exterior spaces as you follow its line. Each interior space can act as cocoon or confinement, depending on how the angles at the top lean in or out, inciting alternating anxiety or relief. Truly masterful. But my contemplation of this was severely cramped by the guard that followed me into each interior space, at one point going so far as to interrupt my thoughts with an extended greeting.

Come on, BCAM, back off a little. Yes, your art is valuable, but loosen up on the tight orchestration of how we get to experience it.

Photo credit: “Tulip" by Jeff Koons, BCAM, entrance plaza, March 2008, by Sam Hunter.

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