Posts Tagged ‘LACMA’

LACMA: White cubes still rule

April 11, 2011

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art still believes in white cubes – those minimalist display spaces that are an essential part of the modernist art experience in contemporary museums.

It seems to be a requirement that the white cube, in its purest form, must have no seating, as in this photography exhibit in the newly opened Resnick Pavillion.

 

Across the way at the Broad Contemporary (a museum within a museum), the scene could have been lifted from any major art museum any time in the last 50 years:

White walls, wood floors, no seats, pensive visitors in black, and a television on the floor – cathode ray, no less, for that classic touch.

An adjoining gallery had the requisite ambiguous constructions:

And to complete the sense that the visitor is but an acolyte at the altar of culture – a mere supplicant who must work hard for any rewards the art might have to offer – we have the inevitable unobtrusive label in the small typeface:

The Broad’s insistence on the old-fashioned “display-space-must-not-in-any-way-compete-with-the-art” aesthetic would almost be endearing if it didn’t make for so much discomfort.

 

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LACMA: Outside looking in

March 29, 2011

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a mixed experience for the visitor, or at least this visitor. It’s a jumble of art and architecture, with no real physical or emotional center. But they’re working on it.

A recent visit on a sunny day in mid-March helped me to appreciate different aspects of the Grand Entrance Pavillion, situated between the Ahmanson Building (on the left) and the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art.

Looking to the north – 180 degrees opposite the view above – the broad expanse of lawn and sky invite lounging and sunning.

In fact, sunning is encouraged by the presence of concrete chaise lounges.

Even on a late winter day with relatively low sun, the lounges and the lawn were bathed in warmth.

The pavillion now has two new places to eat and drink – Ray’s, a restaurant, and the Stark Bar, both run by Patina, purveyors of museum food seemingly everywhere you go.

The good part is the presence of two outdoor establishments. The bad part is the pricing, which is not exactly populist: for lunch at Ray’s, sandwiches are in the $11 to $15 range, and main courses go for around $20. So-called bar bites at the Stark run $8-ish to $15-ish; the bar also offers an encyclopedic selection of small-batch handcrafted liquors and cocktails from $10 up. All fine and good if you’re relatively well-to-do and/or able to spend a lot of disposable income on food and drink. Not so accessible, financially speaking, if you’re not.

Ticket price as a barrier to museum access, Part 1: Art museums

December 28, 2009

How can museums, zoos, and other cultural institutions stay in business while serving visitors whose finances are limited? When does the price of admission become a barrier to access?

Anyone who’s worked in and around museums can tell you that free days generally bring in not only a larger crowd, but people who seem to have less disposable income than the usual run of visitors.

When I worked at the Exploratorium in the early 2000’s, the contrast between free first Wednesdays and the rest of the month was striking. It was the busiest day of the month, hands down; the crowd was much more racially mixed and on the whole looked much less affluent. There were more couples who looked to be in their teens and early twenties, as opposed to the usual parent/guardian types with children. There were also busloads of kids and their chaperones from schools and day camps all over northern California that likely couldn’t pay the museum’s group rates.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and get involved with the exhibits as much as any other set of visitors, though. To my eye — and I must emphasize that I have no research to back this up — this was a crowd that stayed away from the Exploratorium on every other day of the month not out of lack of interest, but because they couldn’t afford it.

I suspect that this is true for museums, zoos, and aquariums across the United States. To get a sense of whether this might be the case, I did a quick survey of admission prices at a small sample of leading art and science museums across the country.

Some provisos: I did not include pay-what-you-will museums (the Met in New York, although you wouldn’t know it from their signage or website), or free ones (the Smithsonians in Washington, the Gettys in LA, which do charge for parking but even then are a bargain). I did not take into account free/reduced admission times, package deals, or membership deals and prices. These are just basic, walk-up retail prices.

Based on the general admission price for adults, seniors, and students, I calculated the cost of admission for a family of four,: two adults, one senior, one youth/student. Here are the results for my sample art museums:

MoMA, New York: $68

Guggenheim, New York: $51

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: $65.50

Art Institute of Chicago: $48

Philadelphia Museum of Art: $58

Denver Art Museum: $31 (Colorado residents), $41 (non-residents)

LACMA, Los Angeles: $32

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: $39

Average cost of admission, family of four: $50. Not including parking/transit, food, special exhibits, museum store, etc. 

We’ll look at science museums in Part 2.