Loathing Las Vegas

Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969. Elaine Wynn collection

In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Times has dual (and dueling) takes on Michael Govan's plan to share LACMA art and installations with the proposed Las Vegas Museum of Art, conceived as a non-collecting institution. First, Jessica Gelt interviews Govan on the idea. Then Christopher Knight tears into the "cockamamie plan": "As bad art museum ideas go, this one is right up there."

For what it's worth, my half-serious theory is, this is all about Elaine Wynn. Or Francis Bacon.

In 2016 Wynn donated $50 million to Govan's pet project, the Peter Zumthor-designed permanent collection galleries. Govan is reciprocating by helping out with what appears to be Wynn's pet project, the Las Vegas museum. He's also playing four-dimensional chess. Wynn has a small but expensive art collection, of which the most notable piece is a prime Francis Bacon triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud. Wynn bought it at auction for $142 million in 2014. LACMA does not have a Bacon, nor does it have $142 million to spend on any work of art. A couple of years after the purchase, in a Forbes interview, Wynn teased the possibility that the Bacon "may go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.… She didn't rule out the donation, instead saying 'We'll see!'"

The painting hasn't been shown at LACMA, much less donated. But by the four-dimensional chess theory, it's an omnipresent consideration in the Las Vegas plan. Govan is saying that, under his collaborative 21st century paradigm, the Las Vegas Museum won't need a permanent collection because LACMA will lend it art and expertise. In courting Wynn as a possible art donor, this permits the line of argument that Wynn could help the cultural aspirations of both Las Vegas and L.A.… by donating the Bacon to LACMA.


"Danger, Will Robinson!"
Has Ms. Wynn donated a single artwork to LACMA, or to anywhere else?
And, re "LACMA does not have a Bacon, nor does it have $142 million to spend on any work of art.":
Why would any serious museum spend $142M on an artwork?
Let the centibillionaires couch dive and spend that, and, in turn, take the substantial gift tax credit by giving it to a museum. That's the way it's done.
I am no Wynn expert, but these people are not the Mellons. Tread cautiosly.
Anonymous said…
A lot of the issues concerning Govan are relatively simple to address. A new director could easily rearrange the collection and terminate the lending program to this non-existent museum in Vegas. I agree it’s a little more complicated than renaming a renamed street. But with over $145 million in art at stake, sending shows to Vegas might be worth considering, but a promise of gifts should be carefully negotiated as part of that deal or some other cash reward such as that received by the Louvre.
But it's more than $142M at stake, I presume. Wynn paid $142M for the Bacon triptych alone.
I take it there's more in them there hills, perhaps?
Question is, is she a hoarder? Or will she/has she already cast her pearls for the common weal?
Anonymous said…
So Govan is willing to cold shoulder a long-time contributor to LACMA, the Ahmanson Foundation, while playing nicey-nice-nice with a person who, although Wynn has given cash for the Govan-Zumthor building, hasn't done much beyond that, certainly in terms of artworks.

Also, Bacon is in the contemporary-art category, and LACMA is becoming a contemporary art museum and (per the LA Times) not a very good one at that.

If even a few examples of Govan's poor judgment didn't exist, I'd give him more benefit of the doubt. Such as if the Zumthor building didn't bust the budget, I'd better understand its design. Or if Govan at least gave more respect to the full nature of a so-called encyclopedic museum instead of a contemporary one (and not a very good one at that), I'd have more confidence in his decisionmaking. Or if Govan had been more transparent for the past several years about his plans for LACMA, I wouldn't doubt his honesty and ethics.
Anonymous said…
LAWA does not have many paintings that command a room.

The Bacon is worth a side deal.

--- J. Garcin

Anonymous said…
Why would anyone "respect" the encyclopedic museum?

It is not some self-evident entity.

Only a hack like Christopher Knight would be stupid enough to think that.

Anonymous said…
Michael Govan had been selling out the county’s museum for over a decade now to these billionaires and none of them have donated anything of significance. Ms. Wynn will probably have the Bacon painting auctioned after her death like they all do.
Luce said…
1) Broad built a building for LACMA but put his collection in his own museum. 2) Hammer did the same. 3) The Ahmanson Foundation severed relations with LACMA and is working with the Huntington. Looks like a trend.