Eli Broad

Reading about the latest controversy at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles—the apparently forced resignation of the longtime head curator Paul Schimmel over the pop-culture exhibitions that the new director Jeffrey Deitch is bringing to the museum—I experienced my usual feelings of disbelief.

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The crackup at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles—with glitz-blitz director Jeffrey Deitch on the ropes and famous artists resigning from the board as fast as you can say John-Baldessari-Barbara-Kruger-Ed-Ruscha—is a fascination. The fascination has nothing to do with what Deitch has actually done.

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The architect Renzo Piano is unpredictable. He has designed museums of extraordinary beauty and refinement, from the Menil Collection in Houston to a recent addition at the Art Institute of Chicago. And he has produced work that is downright bombastic, especially the Broad Contemporary Art Museum in Los Angeles, done around the same time as his work for Chicago. What attracts so many different clients to Piano is the sophisticated yet playful feeling for intervals, proportions, and materials that he brings to the cool geometric forms of mid-twentieth-century modernism.

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Dirty Money

They are selling postcards of Hitler in the gift shop at the Guggenheim Museum. To be precise, they are selling photographic reproductions of a work entitled Him, a polyester portrayal of the Führer that is one of the works by Maurizio Cattelan in his retrospective at the museum. I can imagine being outraged or at least troubled by the postcards in the gift shop, except that by the time I saw them I had already been bombarded by this exhibition in which nearly all of Cattelan’s oversized neo-Dadaist baubles have been hung from the ceiling of Frank Lloyd Wright’s rotunda.

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The Opportunist

Leo and His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli By Annie Cohen-Solal (Alfred A. Knopf, 540 pp., $35) I. Annie Cohen-Solal’s new biography of Leo Castelli, the art dealer who will forever be associated with the meteoric rise of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg in the years around 1960, has set me to thinking about the interest that men and women who run galleries inspire among a fairly wide public.

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THE PICTURE: Recession Proof

This is the opening shot of The Picture--my new, biweekly column. I’m not planning to restrict myself to the visual arts here, although they will certainly be a central concern. I want to range more widely than I have in the past, writing about the interlocking worlds of books and pictures and culture that are my lifeblood, my passion. I may describe a forgotten novel that I picked up in a secondhand bookstore. Or salute the life and work of a friend who’s not around anymore. From time to time, I'll dedicate a column to a painting that's excited me in a museum in Milwaukee or San Francisco.

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L.A. Stories

Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture -- J. Paul Getty Museum Hearst The Collector -- Los Angeles County Museum of Art Dialogue Among Giants: Carleton Watkins and the Rise of Photography in California -- J. Paul Getty Museum Back when I was in college, there was a theory that the way to get a sense of how somebody felt deep inside was to ask whether they preferred Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. The friend who was drawn to the ecstatic optimism of certain moments in War and Peace was one kind of person, and the friend who was consumed by the darkness of Crime and Punishment was another.

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