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Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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Friday
Sep242010

An Acre of Art - LACMA's Resnick Pavilion Press Preview

LACMA has a new gallery and it’s a winner. The Lynda and Stewart Resnick Pavilion is a work of art that complements BCAM to the south and fleshes out Renzo Piano’s master plan. It substitutes a vibrant, layered composition of travertine, scarlet steel, and plantings for a dowdy courtyard as the museum’s core. Unjustly disparaged as the safe choice for American museums that are afraid of innovation, Piano demonstrates a mastery of space and connectivity that make him an ideal choice for LACMA. He has introduced order and excitement to an institution that stumbled badly in commissioning two mediocre sets of buildings in its early years, and then abruptly abandoned Rem Koolhaas’s iconoclastic proposal to start afresh. As an Italian, Piano has a sense of history and the way cities grow incrementally over time. He is familiar with excavations that reveal the foundations of Roman villas—a discovery that delayed construction of the Rome Auditorio by several years. “Here we struck oil—and dinosaur bones, but it didn’t stop us,” he observed.

Introducing his building to an overflow crowd at today’s press preview, philanthropist Lynda Resnick described it as “an acre of art”. Though the exterior walls and roof louvers match those of BCAM, the interior is a single sweep of space, evenly lit from above and a north wall of glass that opens up to the city. As Piano says, “neutral white boxes kill art. A gallery has to have its own character and here it is light that creates the magic.” For the inaugural exhibitions, the space has been divided in three along the north-south axis, and it demonstrates the encyclopedic range of LACMA’s interests. Monumental Olmec sculptures (and many small objects) occupy the central area; to the sides is a selection from the Resnicks’ collection of French art and  a debut showing of a major acquisition of European costumes. Both these shows span the 18th and 19th centuries, but the installations are radically different: stylized packing cases for the fashion, an abstraction of period rooms for the sensuous French treasures.

The building opens to the public with a free weekend on October 2-3.

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