Monday, January 26, 2009

Fascinating Communism (in Culver City)


One of the more surprising lenders to LACMA's "Art of Two Germanys" show is the Wende Museum, Culver City. Never heard of the place? It's the personal mission of Justinian Jampol, a thirty-something Angeleno who became fascinated with the Eastern Bloc. His friends thought he was crazy. Jampol spent over $300,000 of an inheritance assembling his still-growing collection. He told the German magazine Spiegel:

"I didn't intend to found a museum. The thing is, nobody else wanted these things. I tried to give them away -- even to museums years ago, but instead of collecting these artifacts, Germans were trying to get rid of them. The (East German) culture was vanishing and along with it artifacts that were needed for scholarship. I couldn't let that happen."

The Wende appears to have a Wolfsonian-worthy stash of cultural significa, including this East German "Space Exploration Lamp," c. 1970. The museum site claims "100,000 objects and archival materials, including household consumer products, clothing, folk art, diaries and scrapbooks, political iconography, photograph albums, posters, films, textbooks, paintings, sports awards and certificates, and children’s toys," plus a "2.6 ton segment of the Berlin Wall painted by renowned wall artist Thierry Noir; the complete run of the East German official daily newspaper Neues Deutschland; blueprints, lighting fixtures, ashtrays and even menus from the now-demolished Palace of the Republic in East Berlin."

The LACMA show may be the Wende's star turn. Jampol's museum is organizing a related film series of East German cinema at several venues around town, including LACMA, UCLA, the Goethe-Institut, and the Wende itself. While in Culver City, don't miss the Museum of Jurassic Technology's "The Lives of Perfect Creatures," a series of oil portraits of the dogs of the Soviet space program.

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