The Huntington goes hip – The New York Times
SAN MARINO, Calif .– The juxtaposition is striking. In a gallery, Thomas Gainsborough’s 18th-century classic oil painting, ‘The Blue Boy,’ gazes out from the ornate walls, after undergoing a complete restoration. In another gallery, an installation by the artist from Los Angeles Monica majoli explores Blueboy Magazine, one of the premier gay publications in the United States, through sensual images scantily clad young men.
When did the Huntington become trendy?
This isn’t the institution you thought you knew for its Beaux-Arts mansion, imposing research library, and elegant botanical gardens, including one inspired by Suzhou, China. It is now also a hub for cutting-edge contemporary art.
For the first time, Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens joined the Hammer Museum to present the biennale, “Made in LA 2020: a version,“ which highlights videos, films, sculptures, performances and paintings by 30 Los Angeles-based artists.
The show, which opened when its host museums were finally able to welcome the public again on April 17, is clearly a departure for the Huntington.
While the museum showcased living artists such as Alex Israel in 2015 and Celia Paul in 2019, “Made in LA” is her most ambitious contemporary art exhibition to date. And the show represents an effort to reach new audiences, diversify its programming and feature more artists of color.
“It’s a shot through the bow,” said Christina Nielsen, who became the director from the Huntington Art Museum in 2018. She sees the exhibition as “an opportunity to engage with the contemporary art community at large here in Los Angeles. It really opens the doors.
Located just outside Los Angeles on a sprawling former ranch purchased in 1903 by railroad and real estate mogul Henry E. Huntington, the museum opened to the public in 1928 and still features a formal environment and European. So even some of the artists participating in “Made in LA” were initially skeptical about showing their work there.
“I thought it was an odd choice – I was a little worried,” said Majoli, adding that her experience has been positive. “It was almost like rich soil to work with; the work was well underway.
Majoli said she was impressed with the museum’s openness to her facility, given the way she directly addresses the themes of gay liberation and self-determination. She felt free to explore what she sees as’ the queer subtext of ‘Blue Boy’, a painting originally inspired by Flemish Baroque artist Anthony Van Dyck.
Other artists have also created works that respond to the historic Huntington collection. Ann greene kellyThe fabric-draped chairs mirror the draped garments that adorn the 1859 Huntington marble sculpture of the 3rd century Queen of Palmyra, “Zenobia in chains. “
“It became this great opportunity to focus on the context,” said Lauren Mackler, an independent curator who, along with Myriam Ben Salah, organized “Made in LA”
Artist Jill Mulleady specifically asked him four paintings be located near Zenobia in the American Art Galleries of Huntington. They include a diptych, “Interior of a Forest”, which refers to a work of the same title by Paul Cézanne and also frames the statue of Xenobia.
“It was interesting working there,” Mulleady said, “not to change the history, but to add layers.”
Artist Kehinde Wiley discussed how his paintings of black men in classic royal poses were informed by his early experiences with British portraits of Huntington. “It really made an impact on me because of all the splendor and the circumstances,” Wiley Told WNYC in 2009, “especially for me as a young black child.”
To some extent, Huntington’s ‘Made in LA’ show echoes a larger trend in the art world, away from separate paths for different types of art (as the Museum of Modern Art did. with the elimination of its discipline galleries) and towards the historical situation. art in contemporary spaces (such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and now the Frick Collection in the Breuer Building).
The Huntington has multiplied its contemporary art initiatives. In 2016 it started five year-long collaborations with cultural organizations such as the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California.
The Huntington, in partnership with the Yale Center for British Art, presents a trilogy of shows about female artists curated by New Yorker magazine reviewer Hilton Als. Starting with Celia Paul, the series will also include Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and conclude with Njideka Akunyili Crosby at the end of 2022.
And while the price may remain a barrier for visitors to Los Angeles museums (admission is $ 25 for adults, $ 29 on weekends), Nielsen said the museum free days and argued that “it is cheaper for a family of four to go to the Huntington than to go to Disneyland”.
Further efforts are still needed to help the museum achieve greater diversity in its audience, programming and recruitment. (Los Angeles Times art columnist Carolina Miranda recently interviewed if the Huntington, as a “benefactor of the wealth of the golden age,” could “evolve into the post-George Floyd era.”)
Nielsen said she plans to fill three curatorial positions with people of color and that the museum has acquired more work by female artists and people of color. The entire Huntington Institution, including its museum, library and gardens, has an annual operating budget of over $ 50 million, with a significant endowment of over $ 550 million.
The Huntington recently completed a new gallery dedicated to Chinese art, located in its Chinese garden enlarged (there is also a Japanese garden). “We are located in the San Gabriel Valley, one of the largest Asian and Asian-American populations in this country,” Nielsen said.
Meanwhile, longtime museum devotees will have to get used to wandering from basic period pieces of Savonnerie rugs and Sévres porcelain to potentially disturbing installations like Sabrina Tarasoff’s haunted house in “Made in LA”
“I would never say we should turn our backs on the historical collection,” Nielsen added. “But I am also deeply committed to showing how this historic collection resonates with contemporary issues.
“We have to rethink the past – that’s what researchers are doing all the time here,” she continued. “We are a place where history is preserved and history is written. And it is a place where history is preserved and rewritten.”