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)


Anonymous said…
"[I]n four years the proof of what we’re doing will be there for all to see." Michael Govan
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Building Project: October 23 Update
October 23, 2020
Dive into our short video series about the new David Geffen Galleries, opening in 2024.

Construction Update

The following work will be conducted next week:

Foundations installation at the Spaulding Lot continues.
Installation of the remaining construction fence along the north side of Wilshire Boulevard will be completed.
Removal of foundations of the Art of the Americas Building continues.
Removal of foundations of the Ahmanson Building continues.
Shoring installation north of Wilshire Boulevard continues.
Construction Hours

Monday–Friday: 7 am–7 pm

Saturday: 8 am–6 pm
Anonymous said…
Are there no limits to Giovannini's stupidity?

LACMA's collections are "colonial" precisely because of the "organic wholes" they constitute. In short, the "organic wholes" (e.g., culture/nation and period/school/influence) are informed by colonial discourse and its concomitant narrative of progress.

That is precisely the point the Met is making in its 150th anniversary show.
The American elite collect "rare" and "beautiful" objects as if they are latter-day royals and aristocrats. By presenting the objects to the public in museums, the elites attempt to "foster an ideal of good taste for the local public." As the Met explains in the exhibition catalogue, that "good taste" has a "disciplinary" effect insomuch as it serves to nurture a proper sense of belonging, meaning an affinity for a certain place (i.e., the US) and for certain objects (i.e., European/American over others).

Does Giovannini think the museum audience in New York is as stupid as the Save-LACMA mob? Or, is Giovannini as ignorant as the mob he helped to create?
Anonymous said…
To the above poster: Do you speak like that in real life? "In short, the 'organic' wholes'......are informed by colonial discourse and its concomitant narrative of progress" You string together all the trite progressive platitudes in an effort to seem intellectual. Your constant critique of the encyclopedic museum rests on very shaky grounds. Would it be better for the wealthy to collect art and never donate it to public institutions? What do you propose to do with all that art? Burn it? Southern California is fortunate to have the Norton Simon Museum, The Getty, The Broad, LACMA, etc. They might have been founded by wealthy elites, but the general public has benefited from their largess.
Anonymous said…
> Does Giovannini think the museum audience in
> New York is as stupid as the Save-LACMA mob?
> Or, is Giovannini as ignorant as the mob he
> helped to create?

You remind me of Nancy Pelosi accusing the owner of a salon in San Francisco of conning her into making an appointment to get her hair done.

The wildly expensive, irresponsible, unethical, indefinitely non-transparent project of a publicly owned and operated museum smacks of the same BS.

Let them eat cake, indeed.

Anonymous said…
The diagram of the Govan-Zumthor debacle lists 24 areas as "True Gallery Space: 24 'houses.'" Areas which comprise 26,749 square feet.

Ya' gotta be f'ing kidding me. That's like the dimensions of some two-bit museum in Hooterville USA.

So-called "Leftover Space Outside Boxes Called 'Meander Gallery'" will be 82,791 square feet. That's a bit more substantial, but the diagram suggests those will have the distracting afterthought tone of a pass-through area. Or sort of like the hallway areas in the Ahmanson Gallery, directly north of the atrium, where the elevators and clock were.

At least this idiocy won't throw LACMA's budget into the flashing red. ---> /s (for those who might take that remark as sincere)
Anonymous said…
^^^It is embarrassing how ignorant Joe Giovannini sounds in front of a New York audience. Does he read?

*Princeton just revealed plans for a museum with a single exhibition level. They are more or less following LACMA’s architectural and curatorial example.
*The Met has signaled its intent to move away from the divisions and categories of the encyclopedic museum.
*MOMA is already doing what LACMA has proposed doing — moving away from a linear narrative and exploring provocative juxtapositions and adjacencies.

Peter Schjeldahl of the New Yorker had this to say about MOMA’s new approach — “[S]uch efforts are important and must continue. We will have a diverse cosmopolitan culture or none worth bothering about."

Another clever move by Govan. In front of a New York audience, he exposes Giovannini for the clown he is.
Anonymous said…
To the poster above who missed the point:
The problem is NOT that the elites donate art to museums.
The problem is believing that the conventional narratives one tells with that art are "organic," meaning beyond artifice.

On that note, let me ask --- In real life, are you this ignorant?
Anonymous said…
Oh my, the all caps condemnation is just around the corner, but before the bend in the road...
It is now suggested that we should be reassured that the New York museum world finds favor with the critique of old museum practices that new venues will be able to overthrow at Princeton and LACMA. One assumes though that nowhere in the Met’s 150-year anniversary accompanying material is there any suggestion that any portion of their embarrassment of riches should go into storage so that the largest museum in the country might follow in the footsteps of a mid-sized Ivy League teaching museum, or our very own soon to be flying saucer. Whatever drove the Save LACMA crowd the romantic longing that there was an impending loss of (nearly) commensurate riches hardly seems to warrant... Anyway, thanks for the advice New York but we have Brad Pitt.
Besides the throw away PR garbage on LACMA’s site, the most recent justifications to be found on this site include that it is just like a monastery with a tower casting shadows in the courtyard; though don’t stand in the middle of said yard or else the Wilshire bus will run over you (perhaps an LAX “loading and unloading” warning in a good idea). The other was a syllogistic deduction that the architect in Swiss, uses concrete boxes just as at La Tourette, so Corb is back. At least OMA’s “big tent” had a decent enough metaphor for the new museum as a global group hug but now we are left with...viewing inside and “outside the box”, or, the eighty or so steps to climb if the elevator queque is too long.
It is the aggressiveness of the proposed that is so exhausting and sends many into paroxysms just short of bold type, or, for some, the wish of being able to pick and choose what to see on any given day; you can enlighten us with quasi-Foucauldian ethos on the west campus.
At least we have learned that there is no problem this group cannot solve: can’t fly over the tar pits dig site, so they go over the street; can’t fit your Tony Smith under the slab, so they raise it up higher; want to remove old varnish on a painting, go to the basement; you think “meander” is soothing nomenclature but, memo to all, never, ever call the glazed outboard area “circulation”; and, you want multiple gallery rooms (2013 interior model) all in must-have concrete but your hundred foot “bridge” will not support, given your budget, the extra weight so you only get a few scattered concrete walls, or, here’s a thought, more structural efficient rigid concrete boxes. It’s not so much that the engineer designed the galleries because of the purity parameters established—concrete interior walls and spanning the street—but the weight limitations gave the boys few other options. Oops, cart before the horse? The galleries as pinball table though was a bit harsh. But it is a process and, after a dozen years of diligent and rigorous work, they have finally arrived at the “perfect” statement of the new museum.
But enough with with the “stupid” and “mob” comments. Glass houses, or museums, and all...
Anonymous said…
^^^The great majority of museum collections are in storage anyway."

--- Glenn Adamson, Senior Scholar, Yale Center for British Art.
Anonymous said…
On "decolonising" the museum or why scholars at Yale also support Michael Govan in principle:

"A corollary here is that deaccessioning is at least as demanding a curatorial process as acquisition. Both involve similar procedures (curatorial research, committee review and board approval). Critics seem to trust museums when they buy things, and are instinctively suspicious when they sell them; this betrays a dated conception of institutions as, effectively, places for hoarding. Indeed, in the past, museums were very much conceived as demonstrations of civic wealth and treasure houses of imperial conquest. To be sure, it is essential that institutions maintain their fundamental role as stewards of art, preserving works for future generations; this is why deaccessioning (for any reason) must always be undertaken with great care. Yet to some degree, rethinking museums for the future – ‘decolonising’ them, as the current phrase has it – probably does entail dismantling the legacy not only of specific acquisitions, but of acquisitiveness itself."

--- Glenn Adamson, Senior Scholar, Yale Center for British Art.

Anonymous said…
> The great majority of museum
> collections are in storage anyway.

Since they are, the answer is to sell their collections and close the museums they've been in.

Therefore, there will be no art forms, no peoples, no races, no nationalities, no cultures and no societies. Nothing (or no one) will be able to loom over anything (or anyone) else. No excellence. No mediocrity. No superiority. No inferiority. Everyone will be equal. Everyone will be social, cultural hicks in the backwater.

What's wrong with that?
Anonymous said…
> Another clever move by Govan. In front
> of a New York audience, he exposes
> Giovannini for the clown he is.

If he were really clever, he'd get the hell out of LA and go to some small town where issues of superiority or inferiority, of wealth or poverty, of race this or race that, of upper class this or lower class that, etc, don't exist as much as they do in the urban setting.

Govan would make the perfect hick, rube, hayseed.

Los Angeles would also save a lot of money with his departure.

The city needs to start a gofundme page to buy him a one-way ticket out of southern California and a residence far, far away. LACMA has already sold the midtown LA house he's lived in, now move onto the second stage, please.
Anonymous said…
Of course New York museums rehang their galleries ever generation, or with each new director, or to jail their latest addition. MoMA is still trying to live down Rubin’s march through time that offered no escape from the next best thing. And then there were the escalators, dislike for which is one of the sources for the single story appeal; elsewhere skylights captured all the love.

But that doesn’t mean that the only way to provide the latest display reimagining requires only one layout of rooms; that is exactly the “mistake” Rubin made, though there it was easily enough fixed by removing a few of those “terrible” gypboard walls or adding a few escape openings. This is exactly what all those concrete boxes in the proposed is going to make excruciatingly difficult considering they are holding up the roof.

Princeton’s new proposed museum looks great but it constituency is a few thousand students and a very small town. LA county has how many million? Including some who are inclined to come to a better understanding of power relations, others less so whom you may enlighten if your didacticism has a light enough touch, and even some who will be bewildered by the intrusion into the public right of way and see it as a similar arrogance of power that museums are rightfully attempting to identify with regard to their collections wherever appropriate.

So exhibit the work in whatever pseudomorphosis defying bravura manner that is called for, or store, Orwell it but do not assume that the glare, noise, and vibration from vibration from below this lumbering thing are going to appease the poststructuralist gods. Though curtains might.

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