Tuesday, February 19, 2008

BCAM is Born!

Photo by Peggy Archer

Walking through Chris Burden's forest of lamp posts "Urban Light" on Friday night, I felt like I was in a fairy tale. Or like I should be wearing a trench coat and fedora and singing in the rain. It's only a matter of time before someone starts swinging around one (or all) of the street lamps that now welcome visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and its newest edition the Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

Burden's installation is only one of the large and striking pieces that grace the new BP Grand Entrance at LACMA. Approaching the entrance plaza from the other side, visitors are treated to Charles Ray's whimsical giant-sized toy fire truck. That's sure to be another climbing temptation for adults and children alike. And at the center of the plaza is the visitor's first taste of Jeff Koons--his "Tulips."

Meanwhile inside the BCAM there is an entire gallery devoted to Koons' work. In fact, many of the galleries all appear to be devoted to a single artist: Damien Hirst, Robert Therrien, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman and Robert Rauschenberg to name a few. The new three-story building is chock full of big names and surprising and wonderful artworks but it isn't too crowded; the galleries are wide open spaces with ample room for hoards of visitors to mingle and appreciate each work.

Oddly enough, one of the highlights of the new building for me (and for lots of other people) was the giant elevator! 21 feet wide, 16 feet high, 9 feet deep with a glass front and a custom Barbara Kruger installation, people were lining up just for a chance to ride it!

Richard Serra's maze-like sculptures and Robert Therrien's monumental piece "Under the Table"--consisting of a super-sized table and chairs--also contributed to the off-kilter sense of size, leaving me feeling like I'd slipped down the rabbit hole and eaten some curious cake. Frankly, though, I think that this feeling is absolutely appropriate when visiting a contemporary art museum.

And LACMA and its funders spared no expense for the opening. All last weekend the new BCAM was open for free to the public, following an entire week of members-only events, kicked off by a star-studded gala. The giant tent where once Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs ticket-holders waited their turn for a chance to see the wonders of the boy-king's tomb was transformed into a swank lounge. Live music played, sangria flowed and members munched on gourmet food at the tables or sipped their drinks and chatted in white vinyl booths. Later, some people even danced. The whole scene was 1960s chic.

Between the party and the art, the opening was a huge success. But even once all the cocktail napkins have been cleared away, the exhibits will definitely be a strong draw. The new BCAM will without a doubt be a new major feature of the LA cultural landscape.

For more beautiful images of Chris Burden's "Urban Light," go here.

To learn more about the art and architecture of the new BCAM, go here.

To view an interactive calendar of the events leading up to the grand opening last week, go here.

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