LACMA Collectors Raise $3 Million for 10 Artworks

Pax with the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin, about 1575-78. LACMA, Gift of the 2024 Collectors Committee

LACMA's 2024 Collectors Committee has raised nearly $3 million for artworks for the museum's permanent collection. The ten purchases span a rare Spanish colonial Pax from late 15th century Mexico and more recent pieces by a global roster of artists: Judy Baca and Suzanne Jackson (L.A.), Marjunath Kamath (India), Ladi Kwali (Nigeria), and Saeki Shunko (Japan). In a CC first, one work is a commission. Todd Gray will create a 27-ft piece for the museum.

For those unfamiliar, the Collectors Committee is a group of LACMA supporters who gather annually to buy art for the museum. Curators pitch potential acquisitions, and then committee members vote. Artworks are purchased in order of popularity, until everything is bought or the collective bankroll is exhausted. Members can also dedicate special funds to buy favored works, guaranteeing their acquisition. In this case, LACMA trustee Kelvin Davis and wife Hana Davis provided funds to buy Manjunath Kamath's towering terracotta sculpture. Another board member, Rebecka Belldegrun and husband Arie Belldegrun, bought four drawings by Judy Baca for the museum. 

The committee weekend includes an auction of donated works to benefit the museum. Tavares Strachan supplied a 2018 neon piece, We Are In This Together. After the voting, a group of members asked Strachan to create another edition of the neon for LACMA's collection.

Dish, Iznik (Turkey), about 1530-35

The earliest work acquired is a 15th century Iznik dish, made in imitation of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. Judging from the handout image, the colors are exceptionally well preserved for the early date. 

Detail of Pax

The Spanish Colonial Pax is made of gold, rock crystal, feathers, and carved wood. It's a worthy companion to the Hearst Chalice, which was conceivably made in the same workshop. Newspaper tycoon Hearst bought the chalice as Spanish Renaissance, but it is now determined to have been made in Mexico City. The Chalice also contains feathers, perhaps hummingbird, but they are mostly deteriorated. The feathers in the Pax retain their iridescent oranges, greens, and blues. Both objects document the blending of Indigenous and Spanish techniques. The press release hails the Pax as "one of Mexico's most complex and culturally important objects from the 16th century."

Jean Béraud, A Parisian Street Scene: Boulevard des Capucines, 1897-98

In comparison Jean Béraud's A Parisian Street Scene: Boulevard des Capucines is something of a head-scratcher. Béraud worked in the slipstream of the Impressionists, forging a successful career with derivative views of Paris and Parisians. I would think more American museums are deaccessioning their Bérauds than buying one. Armand Hammer bequeathed a Béraud to his Westwood museum, and it was returned to the Hammer Foundation after UCLA took over management. Clearly the Committee sees something in Béraud I don't. LACMA calls Parisian Street Scene "a natural nodal point that connects many areas of LACMA's collection" that "engage with fashion, advertising, popular entertainment, and graphic design." The painting sold at Christie's in 2021 (for £100,000). 

Saeki Shunko, Photo Studio, about 1937

Several CC picks feature under-recognized modern/contemporary artists from outside the Europe/U.S. bubble. One is Saeki Shunko, a Japanese modernist who showed in Paris before his early death at age 33. In the LACMA work he depicts his traditionally dressed daughter at life size in a very modern photography studio.

Ladi Kwali, Water Jar, about 1962
Ladi Kwali's 1962 Water Jar blends Nigerian tradition with the Studio Pottery movement. Bernard Leach was a big fan. Kwali has been influential for generations of African ceramicists.
Suzanne Jackson, Nest, 1971

A Suzanne Jackson acrylic, Nest, is LACMA's first by the artist. Interest in the artist/gallerist/poet is trending. Jackson is in the current Whitney Biennial and is preparing for a retrospective next year.
Judith F. Baca, Hitting the Wall: Women in the Marathon (preparatory drawing), about 1984
Despite the ongoing Resnick Pavilion show, LACMA had no works by Judy Baca. Collectors bought four drawings preparatory to the Hitting the Wall mural, one in color. The mural itself, commemorating first Olympic women's marathon, is off the Harbor Freeway.
Judith F. Baca, Hitting the Wall: Women in the Marathon (preparatory drawing), about 1984
Manjunath Kamath, Vikatonarva, 2024
New Delhi artist Manjunath Kamath's 12-ft-tall terracotta Vikatonarva mixes and matches iconography of ancient India, Greece, and China. The sculpture's title, though easily taken for a mythological figure, is "gibberish," explained the artist: "I want to question the ideas that we take for granted. Things like what is the meaning of art? Or the meaning of anything for that matter?"
Todd Gray, Sumptuous Memories of Plundering Kings, 2021. Private collection. Photo via the artist and David Lewis
Todd Gray's mural-scale commission "will imagine what a visual archive of Afro-Atlantic transit could look like from the artist's personal, 21st-century perspective." Shown here is Gray's similarly scaled Sumptuous Memories of Plundering Kings, displayed at Art Basel Miami 2021.


The Béraud, "A Parisian Street Scene: Boulevard des Capucines" disappoints on many levels. I'd expect to see something like that in the lobby of a 3-star hotel in the French Quarter.
But the 15th century Iznik dish, to my mind, excels the Ming blue-and-white porcelain wares of the same period. The combined cobalt blue with the added teal coloring makes a pop that my eyes just love. Ming wares of that date don't employ teal, as far as I'm aware. Is it large, a charger?
Anonymous said…
Those acquisitions make me think of the LA Times art critic describing LACMA as increasingly a contemporary art museum ("and not a very good one at that"). But the Béraud suggests LACMA is also becoming a Vegas-y-type art museum, and a very good one (hey, near the Strip!) at that.

If it weren't for the Getty and Huntington, I'd think the LA area was throwing in the towel.
Re "If it weren't for the Getty and Huntington...": We are not forgetting Norton Simon, are we?
If a comet were to hit either Getty or Norton Simon, from a purely art-historical perspective, I'd vote for Norton Simon's survival.
Anonymous said…
Jesus. I think Govan needs to reign in his curators and demand more selectivity. I did not know France had its own Thomas Kinkade.
Anonymous said…
> I'd vote for Norton Simon's survival.

FWIW, the Simon isn't an actively collecting museum, so their acquisitions are far and few between. I don't know if they even like accepting donations of artworks.

> France had its own Thomas Kinkade.

LOL. That's a low blow. Beraud may have had tiny glints of a Kinkade, but his overall style and colors were a bit more sophisticated. On second thought, after looking more closely at what LACMA just purchased, you may be closer to the truth than I realized.

Regardless, LACMA's new building for non-contemporary (mainly) art will have less exhibit space than what was torn down. So the Beraud probably will end up in storage---thankfully so.

Or maybe that new museum in Las Vegas can display it in one of its galleries. Or maybe Govan can sell the painting to the Lucas Museum.

Since a museum tends to reflect the judgment and sensibilities of its director, Govan needs to be reigned in first.
Anonymous said…
@Ted Gallagher

Yet, last week, you were here praising Manfredi's version of "Dogs Playing Poker."

The Beraud and the Manfredi are paintings one would expect to see at the John Ringling Museum (Sarasota).

Coincidentally or not, the Caravaggisti first found a home in the US at the Ringling collection.

If you are wondering, it's the same John Ringling, the circus guy.

--- J. Garcin
The Ringling is an underrated treasure among the top-tier art museums in this country.
No lover of Baroque painting should miss it...worth a journey.
I would venture to say that no lover of Peter Paul Rubens can complete his education without seeing the Ringling's full-scale oil sketches by Rubens for the "Eucharist" tapestry series [the tapestries themselves are extant, in Madrid]. It's the best of Rubens in this country, to my mind.
I recommend the following lecture given by Pete Bowron [link below]: "The Critical Fortunes of Italian Baroque Painting in America" ...
He spoke at a symposium on Baroque painting in America, hosted by The Frick Collection.