A Critic Who Praises Zumthor-LACMA (& Isn't So Sure About L.A.)

LACMA is not as bad as Myra Breckinridge (1970), says critic
Here's something you don't see everyday: a critic who likes Peter Zumthor's downsized LACMA. He's Brian T. Allen, who offers a positive assessment of the project in the National Review. That's the conservative journal, but Allen is no Fox News pundit mansplaining art. He's an art historian and former director of the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy.

I'll leave you to read the piece, as it packs multiple jaw-drops. Suffice to say that Allen is more keen on Zumthor's building than he is on Los Angeles.

"Yes, LACMA long aspired to become an encyclopedic big-city museum… and it fell short. Not a Myra Breckinridge–type flop, but a chronic disappointment…

"The land of Tinsel Town and the Beach Boys seems to promise nothing but a supporting part for an art museum, under any circumstances. It's a place where people want to be outside, unless they're seeing a movie. Its rich people are more often than not stingy, narcissistic, and demanding. Couth isn't a native species. It's hard to nourish a museum where traditional is devalued, where the new is prized above all else, where so much is fake, and where nothing is permanent."

I'll bet you haven't heard an East Coast publication say that aloud since Myra Breckinridge was at the drive-in.

CORRECTION. An earlier version of the post identified Allen as former director of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. That's a different Brian Allen; the writer of the National Review piece, who uses the middle initial T., was formerly director of the Addison Gallery of American Art.


George Bacon said…
No one ever addresses the fact that according to an interview between Govan and Zumthor some months ago in the Big Auditorium, the collection will remain mostly in storage and then cherry-picked for themed shows throughout new the museum. I will mean a Japanese scroll next to Veronese next to an Indian miniature next to Oldenberg. Educate yourself about the history of western painting by going to the old master galleries? Or about Chinese art by going to those? Nope, not any more. Nor will there be much needed dedicated galleries for prints and drawings or the great costume collection. And no possibility given Zumthor's design for any expansion -- except off-site. A disaster in the making for the greatest encyclopedic museum west of the Mississippi.
Anonymous said…
Don't know exactly what to make of Allen's commentary. It's all over the place.

It's a combination of damning with faint praise and snickering about what a flop - financially too - LA's main art museum is going to become. It's also being okay with the current buildings but still praising the Zumthor-Govan debacle. It's Allen saying the collection is good but also implying LA is an air-headed wasteland that doesn't deserve a great museum.

The clincher is the writer admires Michael Govan. That automatically means the essayist for National Review is a fool.

Govan and his minions are going to wreck the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, financially, technically, operationally, attitudinally, spiritually and symbolically.

LACMA's director needs to take a long walk off a short pier.

Anonymous said…
His views of LA are typical of dinosaurs. If he doesn’t understand Los Angeles, he’s not going to know what fits with the city.

But this part is something:

"I like Govan. He’s a Williams man, as am I, and part of the famous “Williams Mafia” of directors and curators, as was I.” Lord.
Anonymous said…
Basically what I'm hearing is that LA is getting the museum it deserves (and that is not a compliment).
Anonymous said…
Govan has to be one of the most adulated museum directors in this country ?Why? Have you heard him talk? He talks and talks and it makes no sense. The man is as banal, uninspired, uninspiring, limited, and ignorant as can be. And btw, how can someone so visually aware put his weight behind that double pancake building to be the next LACMA? What a horrible building and do people really want to sit up there and watch traffic on Wilshire? From a museum.. oh but I guess if you have no walls for Rembrandt, you may as well look at the Teslas and the BMWs.Can someone find him a job as salesman at Gucci's or Ralph Lauren's? That's about his speed.