Tour - The Marciano Museum and LACMA

On Thursday, a group of about 14 Congress attendees headed out for a tour of both the Marciano Art Foundation’s new museum and the conservation labs at LACMA.

The Marciano brothers, popularly known for their clothing company Guess, have amassed an art collection of over 1,500 pieces, mostly ranging in date from 1990-present. Taking their cue from friend Eli Broad, the Marcianos were hoping to open a museum in order to make the collection freely (at no admission cost) available to the public. Currently, the museum is still under construction with an opening date set for early 2017, so we were fortunate to have one of the very first hardhat tours led by collection manager Jamie Goldblatt. To house the museum, the Marcianos bought an existing Masonic temple on Wilshire Boulevard designed by Millard Sheets in 1960. The plan is to retain the bulk of the concrete structure, including many of the original mosaics, murals, and architectural features inside. So far, the biggest updates have been the removal of asbestos, repair of the roof, and installation of an HVAC system, and much of the remaining work is cosmetic.

Unfortunately, photography inside the building was restricted, so I’ll try to describe the general layout of the museum. Under ground there will be two storage spaces, with the bulk of the artwork remaining in off-site storage. On the ground floor will be the main entrance as well as a bookstore. The entryway leads into a large installation space and a black box performance space, previously the auditorium and stage, respectively. One level up will hold the offices and educational spaces, but will also include public balconies to look onto the artwork installed below. Finally, the top floor will be the main permanent gallery space made up of five large rooms that can be further divided by temporary walls. Once the masons’ banquet hall, the largest room will have the windows blocked on one side, but allow access to the balcony on the other with a panoramic vista of the Hollywood hills. All art-containing spaces will be climate controlled—one of the recommendations given by consulting conservator Tatyana Thompson.

It sounds like the Marcianos have been welcomed by Hancock Park, and the small staff at the foundation have worked with the neighbors to ensure everyone is happy with the outcome of the museum. The first show in the museum will be curated by Philip Kaiser and highlight the work of contemporary artist Jim Shaw—commissioned for the ground floor space. Look for the website to go live by the end of 2016.

Following a short drive to LACMA, Head Conservator Mark Gilberg met us for a tour of the labs. I was interested to hear a little history of the department, which was one of the first in the western United States, founded in 1965. There are five separate specialties—paintings, textiles, paper, objects, and science—that make up a 30-35-member department, including four conservators based at Watts Towers, and varying based on the number of Mellon fellows and graduate interns. As you can see in the photos, our tour group was treated to a range of fun and interesting projects, from a painting on copper to costumes designed by Marc Chagall, a fiberglass mannequin tattooed with graphite to tarnished silver, and finally a lamppost globe from Chris Burden’s Urban Light that Charlotte Eng spoke about during her talk.

It was great to catch a glimpse of the LACMA labs before they are rebuilt during the museum’s east campus remodel. The exact plans are still TBD, but the conservation department will remain on site.

Post by: Heather Brown