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LACMA Update: Demolition Progresses; Protests Continue

Aftermath of LACMA’s Bing Theater demolition. (The Museum’s Japanese Paviliion, in the background, will remain, but will be remodeled as part of the larger project.) Photo by Eric Gudas.

Although many of us are staying home as much as possible these days, there are many aspects of city life that are continuing as previously scheduled.  One of these is the big transformation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as the institution proceeds with demolition in preparation for a remodel that will significantly transform its campus.  But while the project continues, so do several protest efforts.  Here’s an update on what’s been happening on both fronts over the last few weeks.

LACMA Moves Forward

On April 9  LACMA sent out a community update on the big project, noting that it has an official green light to continue construction during the COVID-19 crisis:

“Our building project is continuing on schedule, thanks to the hard work of many over the last several years. Both the County and City of Los Angeles have declared building construction to be an essential activity, and the County has strongly urged us to continue moving forward. All of the enabling activities required in advance of construction were completed before the coronavirus crisis unfolded, allowing us to continue hazmat abatement and internal demolition and proceed with hard demolition as planned.”

But while the path was clear, it was still at least a bit of a shock to many local residents to see demolition equipment move in this month, and to watch the old Leo S. Bing Theater building come down.  Park La Brea resident Eric Gudas was moved to write “A Farewell to LACMA’s Bing Theater” for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and documented the process with photos…which he generously shared with the Buzz.


Save LACMA Ballot Measure

Meanwhile, as we first reported in January, SaveLACMA, a non-profit group opposed to the LACMA remodel, has been pursuing its goal of increasing public oversight of both the project and the museum’s general operations, by trying to get a new ballot measure approved for the November election.  The measure calls for several specific changes in the city’s Municipal Code, which would require that:

– 20%-30% of LACMA’s Board of Trustees include “public representatives,” including the LA County Supervisor for the Third District, the LA City Council Member for District 4, and other “self-nominated individuals,” unrelated to other current Trustees, who would be approved by SaveLACMA.

– Only 20% of costs for the museum’s current and future building projects could come from LA County funds.

– Design professionals involved in any and all LACMA building projects would have to submit proposals in an open design competition, reviewed and approved by the museum’s board and other design professionals.

– Sales or use of any artwork owned by the museum, to fund construction projects, would be prohibited.

SaveLACMA submitted the proposal to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk earlier this month, and on April 20, the group announced that the County has accepted the measure’s language, and provided an official title and summary.

According to SaveLACMA President Rob Hollman, the next steps in SaveLACMA’s effort will be fundraising and gathering the 225,000 signatures that are required to actually place the measure on the ballot in November.


Alternate Design Competition

Another local group opposing the LACMA project has also been busy this month. The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA launched a new “LACMA Not LackMA” design competition, inviting architects to submit “smart, functional, aspirational, and exciting” alternate designs for a LACMA remodel – designs that would, in particular, avoid LACMA’s current plans to reduce gallery space, and which would also allow the museum to keep more of its permanent collection on display for the public.

The new designs would be strictly theoretical, of course, since LACMA has already fully approved its own design and construction plans, but the organizers say they would like to see proposals that would “inspire and show a way forward for a LACMA that is improved and fresh, not reduced and compromised.”

“It is important to The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA to publicly display ideas that truly capture people’s eyes, hearts, and minds, in order to reset the museum’s architectural path and keep LACMA intact and thriving as an encyclopedic museum,” said architecture writer and curator Greg Goldin, co-chair of The Citizens’ Brigade and co-author of the books, “Never Built Los Angeles” and “Never Built New York,” in a statement about the contest. “These new designs will showcase the collections in a practical and architecturally stimulating environment that will embody—rather than usurp—LACMA’s purpose and spirit.”

The juried competition will also award a $10,000 cash prize to the winning design.


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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