JAN/FEB 2009


From the Editor Through a strange synchronicity, these are very good–and quite scary–times for the West Coast art scene, particularly in Los Angeles. To start off, in a well-earned act of cultural boosterism, January has been named “LA Arts Month” by the city of Los Angeles, to encourage residents and visitors to explore the city’s vast array of cultural offerings. Prominent among those events, this month the art fairs descend on Los Angeles in expanded form, from Downtown LA to Santa Monica. Perhaps most ambitious: in recognition of the region’s role as a world art capital, the Getty Foundation announced a series of 15 grants, totaling $2.8 million, to launch a series of concurrent exhibitions throughout Southern California focusing on the LA art scene in the decades after WWII. Entitled “Pacific Standard Time, Art in LA 1945-1980,” the shows will span from the major museums to more modest institutions, from Santa Barbara to San Diego, starting in 2011. But if that lent a welcome plaudit to the LA art scene of the recent past and near future, the Los Angeles of the present was grimly cloud-darkened in December with the revelation that the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown was under threat of insolvency. Though the art world had heard rumors of MOCA’s financial woes for some time, the urgency of the situation was startling. It seems the museum, with an annual operating budget of roughly $21 million, had dipped regularly into its endowment to pay its bills and was down to its last $7 million: a lifeline of mere months. Days after the story was released in The New York Times that he was mulling opening his own museum, billionaire art booster Eli Broad swept in with the offer of a $30 million longterm donation–provided the trustees of MOCA (or other benefactors) stepped up to match his ante. But despite Broad’s largesse, the question remained: how could the trustees and board of MOCA let it get this far? If LA is in fact the art capital it declares itself to be, can the city and its minions of wealthy art-lovers stand by and watch MOCA fail? One idea that’s been floated is a merger with (absorption by) the much larger LACMA. At an anguished town hall meeting at the airy Geffen Contemporary facility in November, artists gathered to console each other, vent, demand answers, and finally plead that the museum survive in some form or another. art ltd. stands by that sentiment. Whatever its financial, managerial, or diplomatic missteps, MOCA is a world-class contemporary art museum with a world-class collection and a crucial nexus for L.A.’s vast art community. It cannot be allowed to sink into the miasma of its own fiscal irresponsibility. As if more argument was needed, this issue makes evident the vast spectrum of aesthetic pleasures and production the West Coast offers. We offer an appreciation of Hans Burkhardt, the masterful mid-century abstractionist who brought his own East Coast vitality to Southern California in the post-war years. We look at the painting of Salomon Huerta, whose cryptic forays into identity politics are gift-wrapped with sumptuous panache. We examine the ongoing, quarter-century tenure of Hugh Davies, the influential director of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. We bask in the Modernist architecture of the desert oasis of Palm Springs, and survey the gallery scene in the verdant hills of Idaho. And so much more. Happy 2009. Please visit the News section on this website to view an update on the MOCA situation – LACMA Statement on MOCA Resolution