LACMA Has Raised $736M for Zumthor Building

Rendering of Peter Zumthor's David Geffen Galleries, LACMA. Bruce Goff's Japanese Pavilion is at far right

LACMA has raised $736 million for its Wilshire-spanning permanent collection building, the David Geffen Galleries. That is 98 percent of the announced goal of $750 million. 

The Peter Zumthor-designed structure has drawn controversy for the Swiss architect's arguably cringe homage to L.A. car culture; the building's relatively modest square footage and wall space; and Michael Govan's plan to eliminate "permanent" galleries in favor of changing, thematic installations of the permanent collection. Much of the sniping has devolved into speculation about the project's finances. In a 2019 L.A. Review of Books article architect Joseph Giovannini used somewhat creative accounting to frame the Zumthor project as a billion-plus-dollar money pit (counting "capitalized" and "soft" costs). The only remedy, said Giovannini, would be to "sell the Rembrandts."

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about the LACMA announcement is that the museum didn't move the goalpost yet again. The campaign began with a $600 million goal, and this was raised to $650 million and $750 million. At the current pace of fund raising, the goal could be reached in a month or so.

A museum spokesperson told the L.A. Times that construction is (still) expected to be completed in late 2024. Mark that on your calendar as a 2025 opening.  


Anonymous said…
Just what LA needs: another grey concrete overpass
Anonymous said…
Well, good for them. Even more since LAMCA, going back to 1965, has never shown the kind of moolah that pours out of certain cultural institutions, such as Paris's Louvre World or NYC's Metland. LACMA's original campus was in shambles for years because it was never to begin with fully upgraded and renovated.

Not sure what LA's economy will be like in the next 60 years. But in today's world, the museum on Wilshire Blvd will hopefully get around the lack of local corporations like a Home Savings, Arco or Times Mirror. And with any luck, LACMA will get non-profits like the Ahmanson Foundation back into the fold.
I find the rendering looks smashing...bright, light, airy...a bit like the Hirshhorn turned inside out.
The eternal swapping out of the permanent collection sounds offputting...when you go you want to know your friends are at home.
Re "sell the Rembrandts": Oh, yes. I know a couple of joints on upper Fifth that would be duking it out to buy, buy, buy. The Raising of Lazarus is the bomb!
Anonymous said…
The caption of "...Japanese Pavilion is at far right" is another reminder of how Zumthor's design, by way of Michael Govan, wastes valuable acreage north of Wilshire Blvd. I realize that the original design of Goff's and Piano's buildings doesn't make them naturally blend in with or physically connect to the concrete blob. But way more could have been done so that the transitions between the new and existing spaces were somewhat seamless. Even better, that may have reduced the price tag too.

A large footprint over Wilshire Blvd and to the north and south of it, however, was necessary in order to stroke the ego or vanity. More that than anything else.
Anonymous said…
LOVE IT! Great News! Cant wait till it opens <3
I suppose it would be asking too much to have LACMA post a floorplan of the so-called "blob" layout. I surmise that there are enclosed galleries behind the glass lookouts.
Their people appear to be so aloof. Pitiable.
Anonymous said…
They did that a few years ago :)
Anonymous said…
^ The lack of transparency of, in particular, Michael Govan from the beginning has been troubling. If he and the board of trustees can be excused for the new building's high cost, its smaller square footage, its absence of important on-site backroom areas, its galleries limited by picture windows, its graceless concrete walls, etc, they should be at least held accountable for squelching full candor and honesty. Even more so since LACMA is a largely publicly owned institution.
Re "They did that a few years ago": ooo, can they do it again, or provide a link to the archived schematic?
Here's the post on the Sep. 2020 floorplan:
Anonymous said…

For the Hirshhorn, Bunshaft (architect of) drew inspiration from a grove of trees. It explains the shape of the columns which hold up the ring and the pattern on the soffit. Bunshaft thought of the opening in the middle as a kind of clearing beyond the trees.

See this:

... For LACMA, Zumthor also drew inspiration from a tree. You can see this in two ways: The building branches in a very organic way over tree-trunk-like masses. Like a tree, the building also twists in response to the sun. Of course, as a museum, it does so for the opposite effect.

In various interviews, Zumthor has discussed his fondness for tree forms. He talks about thinking of the LACMA pavilions as metaphorical trees here:

--- J. Garcin
I posted something but it doesn't appear.
Did I breach a moderation norm? If yes, can you specify so to avoid recurrences?

Anonymous said…
Maybe it's the Stockholm Syndrome, but I don't think the design is that bad. I just really wish the designs kept the chapel galleries and was sand colored instead of grey. I always prefer when galleries have warmer colors.
Ted: There's very little moderation beyond deleting spam posts. Sometimes Blogger is quirky; you might try reposting.
Anonymous said…
> Maybe it's the Stockholm Syndrome

In my case, I've been affected by the Louvre World Syndrome. Something about that place in Paris so overwhelmed me (in both good and negative ways) that I then saw LACMA in a new light---both pre-Pereira and post-Pereira. Not so much just because LA's main public visual arts museum has a comparatively modest collection, but because its, yep, "tract house" format of 1965-1986 buildings struck me as way too funky.

I recall seeing an online review of it around 10 years ago from a tourist based in Minneapolis. She implied that her own Minneapolis Institute of Art (in a typical Beaux-Arts building of the early 1900s) caused her to be underwhelmed by LACMA.

I checked out MIA's collection and wasn't too impressed. So I imagine her visceral response to LACMA was due partly (or largely) to LA being one of the few American cities that never had a publicly owned art museum (singular and not sharing space with dinosaurs and dioramas) until as recently as tract-house-era 1965.

Still, the Govan-Zumthor building appears like it will have it own issues. However, this is the age of the selfie, TikTok and Instagram.
I repeated the attempt to post. It appears but when I refresh a moment later the post has disappeared again.
Wow. The comments posted in the September 2020 floorplan posting were brutal. I've seen beheadings with dull axes that were more artful.
As for the layout: I think it's sublime. Scads of spacious enclosed galleries. And also plenty of light-drenched space with window of both worlds. And the enclosed configurations are not globbed together. I see them as dice cast willy-nilly on a baccarat table. Very elegant, not, as we see so often, just spaces all crammed together in a tic-tac-toe grid.
I admire the dark-color interior spaces, although with no skylights to illuminate the space in these galleries, adequate artificial light will make or break the art-viewing experience. There's nothing worse than a collection so poorly lit it's useless...see Isabella Stewart Gardner as a cautionary tale. Those trustees of a world-class collection should be put in a small boat in a gale with no paddle.
Anonymous said…
Most art in museums is shown in a manner not in form with their original setting. Our collective taste for the ideal space in which to display evolves over time. The reviews of the Frick collection at the Madison Avenue building have been exceptional. The Kimball also has a similar one floor concrete structure. This is not Govan’s first museum expansion, not even his first at LACMA. I can’t think of a director who’s had a hand in more of these projects. The fact that construction cost haven’t gone through the roof and the project is on schedule, through a pandemic and economic crunch, says a lot about the architect and the director. Can’t wait to see our new LACMA in 2025.
Anonymous said…
The building is NOT an "homage to L.A. car culture." Where did this idea come from? From that idiot Josie Giovannini? It's stupid.

I cited the NY Times article above. Zumthor does NOT mention LA car culture in that article.

Zumthor also does NOT mention LA car culture in the more recent interview with the New Yorker. In the latter, he suggests the Geffen building has the form of a monastery. And, one can see that in the square (on the west side), the glass promenade (cloister), sidelight, enclosed galleries (cells), and even the positioning of the museum building with respect to the office tower. (In the monasteries of Southern Europe, the church tower is positioned in such a way that it casts a shadow on the cloister, keeping it cool.)

... If anything about Los Angeles inspired Zumthor, it's Chris Burden's Urban Light. Govan has described it as a recreation with LA materials of an ancient temple. Well, what is an ancient temple in its primitive form? According to Pliny (the Roman historian), it's a grouping of trees.

In part, that is why architects (who want to make meaningful buildings) keep contemplating the tree-from. The latest to make a building about trees was David Chipperfield (the 2023 Pritzker Prize winner). It wasn't even his building. He wanted to offer an interpretation of a Mies building he was renovating.

--- J. Garcin
Anonymous said…
> The building is NOT an "homage to L.A. car culture."

If so, Zumthor sure does like embracing a thoroughfare that cars drive on, Wilshire Blvd, on both its north and south sides. He also doesn't seem to mind isolating the main parts of the building a good distance away from the sidewalk (several feet above it), which is another format often associated with LA. If Zumthor's building isn't an homage to the car, it's the next best thing: It's an homage to the concrete freeway overpass/underpass.

It probably will evoke a bit of this, around 7 miles to the east of the building.

Ultimately, if the Zumthor/Govan project at least weren't so wildly expensive (and LACMA's budget through the decades has been rather modest), I'd give it more leeway.
Anonymous said…
LACMA doesn't even have a good collection. Who cares what the square footage of the new building is? Over 100,000 artworks and maybe like 3 masterpieces. The rest is crap that better museums don't want.
Re "LACMA doesn't even have a good collection": Crack a book, grasshopper.
Anonymous said…
I’ve opened plenty of books and been to many museums around the world. That’s how I know, my friend.
Interesting bona fides.
I'd love to know which you consider are these so-called three masterpieces, and why.
Anonymous said…
> LACMA doesn't even have a good collection.

That will be offset by all the floor-to-ceiling windows throughout Zumthor's building. When there are lots of views of cars, SUVs, trucks and buses driving down Wilshire Blvd: "We don't need no stinkin' artwork."

Quite seriously (and not meant just sarcastically), the House of Govan will be ideal for today's TikTok/Instagram culture.
Anonymous said…
>If Zumthor's building isn't an homage to the car, it's the next best thing: It's an homage to the concrete freeway overpass/underpass.

Calling the Geffen building an overpass is NOT the insult you think it is.

... Not after the former High-Line (an elevated highway in NY) was repurposed as a very remarkable public park.

... Not after Grafton Architects won the 2020 Pritzker Prize. They started out designing highway bridges and the influence of those infrastructural projects persists in their more mature work.

... Not after Catherine Opie did a series of photographs on LA freeways (1994-5). Opie sought to capture their beauty and to redeem them culturally. Indeed, the freeways made her mindful of the framing devices that generate community. Later, they take the form of goalposts as in her High School Football series.

... So, it's sort of comical how you think you have better judgment than everyone who admires the design when in fact your opinions tell us who you really are. You are a rube.

Anonymous said…
> You are a rube.

LOL. You're not by chance the anti-"Save the LACMA mob," anti-"MAGA" person? Whether you are or not, Govan-Zumthor and LACMA's trustees, since they're playing up the gimmicky auto-centric/concrete-overpass/cultural-cheapening angle, actually are somewhat a bunch of suburban-serving hayseeds.

Regardless, if visitors start finding the artworks boring, their being able to view traffic along Wilshire Blvd and the SAG building down the street should relieve the tedium.

Beyond that, since LACMA will never be a really grand cultural institution the way certain other art museums are, it going the TikTok/Instagram route is somewhat of a necessary gimmick (and rube moment).