Above is a shot of Long Beach's still-unopened Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum. Like its near neighbor, the Museum of Latin American Art, it's a gift of the late physician and philanthropist Robert Gumbiner, a man who cared more about art than architecture. The 2400-square foot building, formerly storage for MoLAA, is now covered in murals of palm trees by Art Mortimer. It fronts a small, fenced-in sculpture garden — really a traffic island. The only sculpture-esque objects presently on view are some fake Yap Island stone money.
The new museum will be affiliated with Yap Island's Ethnic Art Institute of Micronesia, also founded by Gumbiner (who had HMO business in Micronesia). As recently as last February, there was talk of the Long Beach museum opening in summer 2009. It didn't happen, and no revised date has been officially announced. Mortimer's web site says "they hope to open early in 2010."
Will the new museum seize MoLAA's unofficial crown as the ugliest museum in Los Angeles County? Not likely. Once you get past the fact that PIEAM (or however they'll abbreviate it) looks nothing like a museum, it's really no more objectionable than other examples of tiki culture kitsch. You've probably had an office party in a worse space. MoLAA, on the other hand, takes ugliness to whole new level. Damn!
(So forget about the building: MoLAA's current show, "The Sites of Latin American Abstraction: Selections from the Ella Fontanal-Cisneros Collection" is fantastic. Named one of the ten best shows of 2009 by Christopher Knight, it's up through January 24. Following 2008's Wilfredo Lam exhibit and accompanying a smarter, more contemporary rotation of the permanent collection, "Sites" proves that MoLAA is doing something right, on the inside.)