Two Zumthor Analyses Seethe and Surprise
Two articles on LACMA's Zumthor project have just gone up. Those who found last night's debate too tame might might want to look at The New York Review of Books, where LACMA director Michael Govan responds (in 531 words) to architect and critic Joseph Giovannini's recent take-down of the Zumthor commission… followed by Giovannini's counter-rebuttal (1275 words, plus one table, 11 floorpans, and 3 charts).
Anyone who's been following the matter won't find much new in either adversary's comments. More illuminating is Michael Slenske's piece in Los Angeles magazine, which manages to add a few surprise twists to a now-familiar story.
• Q. Guess who was one of Peter Zumthor's biggest fans? A. LACMA's former curator of European Art, J. Patrice Marandel (now a vocal critic of Govan's plans for the museum). Around 2001, when Govan's predecessor Andrea Rich was planning a new LACMA building, Marandel lobbied for Zumthor, handing out copies of books about Zumthor to fellow curators. "They said, 'Who is that?'" recalled Marandel. "That was the first time most of my colleagues had heard of Zumthor. And they all returned the books to me, and that was the end of Zumthor."
• Marandel likens Govan to Donald Trump: "I'm not the only one to make that comparison. He's no Obama, believe me."
• "I think he's like the Gavin Newsom of the art world" is artist Enrique Martinez Celaya's take.
• "In his heart of hearts," Govan "wanted to work with me" on a new LACMA building, says Frank Gehry. "He never told me that, but I felt it."
• Gehry was asked to design a museum bridge over Wilshire—about 15 years ago, when LACMA bought the south-of-Wilshire lot. "I designed a very Zen, simple bridge that you almost didn't see. Like the wings of a butterfly, it was very light."
(Shown: Works from Vera Lutter's series of camera obscura views of pre-demolition LACMA, 2017-19)