Is Ahmanson Largesse Up for Grabs?
|Allesandro Algardi, Baptism of Christ, model 1646. LACMA|
Knight's L.A. Times article quotes an e-mail from Foundation president William Ahmanson: "If we are to continue in this space, then we may need to find a beneficiary other than the Los Angeles County Museum of Art."
The Ahmanson Foundation's interests go far beyond art. But it has spent a lot of money on local museum construction projects and on art for LACMA ($130 million worth over six decades). The Ahmanson website says it serves organizations "that are based in and serving Los Angeles County." That would seem to rule out the National Gallery of Art, a traditional Plan B of aggrieved L.A. art patrons. There is a very short list of local museums that collect the sort of European art the Ahmanson has favored and have ample permanent galleries to show them. The Getty, the Norton Simon, and Huntington are pretty much it.
I'd guess the Getty is too rich to be a likely candidate for Ahmanson's charity. But who knows? In 2011 the Ahmanson gave the Getty Trust $100,000 for promoting the first Pacific Standard Time.
The Ahmanson has given the Norton Simon two grants of a mere $5000 each for "general support." That's not much of a commitment by Ahmanson standards. (It's given the Petersen Automotive Museum 13 grants totalling $3.4 million.)
The Simon's blue-chip set of Old Masters is closely aligned with the Ahmanson tastes. But the NSM is not today an actively collecting institution. At LACMA it was Marandel and his predecessors who beat the bushes for worthy acquisitions and pitched them to Ahmanson trustees.
Of the three institutions, the Ahmanson has had by far the closest association with the Huntington. In the past decade the Ahmanson Foundation has made 40 gifts to the Huntington, totaling $7.8 million. These gifts were not for art but rather for building projects (the Chinese Garden, expansion of the Erburu Gallery, the new visitor center), exhibitions, and general support.
The Huntington is mainly known for British and American art, two schools not represented in the LACMA gifts. But it has a great van der Weyden and Houdin's Diana.
Would the Ahmanson be interesting in supporting American art? Arguably that would make more impact on local collections than European art, given the Getty's active buying. Knight says Govan floated the idea of Latin American art to William Ahmanson, and it didn't go well. But for what it's worth the Ahmanson Foundation was one of a group of patrons who kicked in to buy LACMA's great John Copley portrait.
|John Copley, Portrait of a Lady, 1771. LACMA|
William Ahmanson: "I like Michael Govan as a person, but we're having a major difference when it comes to this… Once that wrecking ball starts to hit the buildings, there's no turning back and we're stuck."
Michael Govan needs to be kicked out of LA. On his ass.
That $130 million over six decades doesn't even match David Geffen's pledge of $150 million in one year.
One would think that Chris Knight would have taken note of this. But when you are pressed to find fault with something, these things happen. You ignore the Eurocentrism of the Ahmanson foundation, their disregard for Latin American Art, their belief that they should be able to dictate to a museum the terms of display, and their delusion in thinking that $130 million over six decades should buy them more clout than David Geffen and his $150 million in 2020.
Clearly, Mr. Knight wrote the article to shame Mr. Govan, but paradoxically there is more shame for Mr. Knight in ignoring all of the above and in revealing that even over six decades the Ahmanson has NOT donated as much as Mr. Perenchio and Mr. Geffen donated in a single year.
Weak rationalizations and lame excuse-making to the max.
Are you Michael Govan's mother?
Doesn't matter. Govan needs his ass kicked.
Because the LA Times hadn't indicated as much, I wondered if the writer of the assessment in the LA Review of Books had gotten some garbled feedback. But as with other aspects of the Govan-Zumthor debacle, Giovanni has instead either shown or verified that LACMA's director is more irresponsible and unethical than believed.
Govan is single handedly destroying a major public institution in Los Angeles. He's like a cultural version of the helicopter that Kobe Bryant, his daughter and friends were flying in several weeks ago.
Michael Govan is doing to LA's cultural dynamics what the Covid-19 Virus is doing to China and other places.
Apparently, Chris has not read the profile on Eli Broad in the New Yorker. Eli tried this stuff too (to dictate the terms of display). When Govan didn't give him what he wanted, Eli packed his things and left.
Did LACMA collapse after that? Hardly and not $650 million later.
In any case, I seriously doubt the Ahmanson's departure is going to change the mind of anyone who matters. LACMA's been through this before. Having dealt with Eli first hand, the County is well aware of how manipulative some patrons can be. As for Geffen, he's not going to pull out over something like this --- not his style. So if the Save-LACMA yahoos think they scored any points with this, think again. On the contrary, they look even more ridiculous for not knowing the rules and history of the game.
Here a case study on the subject:
Stop tap dancing for LACMA's lousy, irresponsible director.
Sorry, but Govan is both a fool and idiot.
Just as the tragic premature death of icon Kobe Bryant ended a chapter in the history of local sports-popular culture (Kobe did go on to win an Oscar), the ongoing destruction of LACMA spells the end in a chapter of the history of local philanthropic-arts culture.
That LARB Giovaninni hit job was factually incorrect on so many levels (who are his sources, TMZ’s rejects?!?) it’s no wonder it couldn’t be published anywhere else. The Ahmanson Foundation is not severing ties with LACMA, it’s just suspended them for now. Clearly the much more responsible and ethical, and award winning, journalist Christopher Knight was able to report on this correctly because he actually spoke with the leader of the Ahmanson Foundation who, doubtless, wouldn’t give Giovaninny the time of day.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that harridan Citizen Joe wrote that entirely distasteful comment above about Kobe Bryant because he’s 1,000 times more irresponsible and unethical than Michael Govan could ever aspire to be.
I read a quote of his in a recent article about the ongoing trashing of the museum. He said he didn't know if the word "masterpiece" could be even applied to certain artworks in today's world.
The guy is a philistine and Hollywood-loving suck-up. Get rid of him. Please.
As a collector of contemporary art, I have thought of donating my collection to various museums, including LACMA. I am under no delusion that the museum that gets the most valuable works in my collection will hang them immediately next to Van Gogh's Night Cafe. And I don't care. True collectors donate to expand the public archive, whether all of it is on display or not.
Also, to the poster who thinks the Ahmanson bought first-tier works for LACMA, think again. The Getty has a first-tier portrait by David (Bonaparte Sisters). By comparison, The LACMA work is one-dimensional, colorless, and otherwise unappealing. If it were available on the art market today, it would not set any records for the artist or the market. Second-tier works like this often do not even meet their low estimate at auction because collectors at auction are often looking for masterpieces or visually-appealing works. The Ahmanson David is neither. Some of you reveal your ignorance by pretending that you know things about a class of objects you have never attempted to buy yourselves.
By sidestepping the entire mess he's creating and focusing on the Ahmanson family and Foundation's involvement alone - whether they've given great gifts or so-so gifts through the decades - you might just as well ask, and other than THAT, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
Beyond the issue of the Ahmanson Foundation cutting its ties to LACMA, the real tragedy of all this is that art objects accrue deeper meaning by being part of a collection. A single Rembrandt might be a masterpiece, but it gains from being regularly displayed within a larger collection of Dutch 17th century art. The same is true of Islamic art, Asian art, etc. Connections between objects will be lost with out a permanent display of the collection. The Board of Trustees are negligent in their duties by allowing the director to make such a permanent, and drastic change to the institution, one that will be difficult, if not impossible, to ever correct.
Whether European art is on a top or lower level, whether it's modern or pre-1700's, whether non-European art is emphasized or de-emphasized, Govan was quoted in a recent article that even using the word "masterpiece" to describe an artwork may no longer be fitting or appropriate.
This is the guy who's in charge of LA's major public institution devoted to the visual arts.
I've been saying for awhile with a lot more sarcasm and ridicule than seriousness that he needs to be booted out of LACMA and LA. I now perceive his tenure at the museum (without flippancy) as doing to LA's cultural scene what the Coronavirus is doing to the community (and beyond) in general.
What are people like the Resnicks, Broads, Boones (assuming they're still alive), etc, etc, doing or not doing about this travesty? Asleep at the switch? Co-conspirators?
I know people like Howard Ahmanson and Anna Bing Arnold are spinning in their grave.
Why more insiders and also various outsiders aren't outraged by what he is doing to the museum is due to what? His smiley-friendly personality? His pleasant phone calls and emails to LACMA staffers and others?
If so, I give him credit for being a variation of an effective used-car salesman. Or a guy who gets people to fork over for the Brooklyn Bridge or some swampland in Florida.
Incidentally, philanthropists of LA, other institutions like the Music Center or Colburn School of Music are in way more need of donations than Govan and his harebrained "Motel 6 overpass" are.