November 18, 2006

A museum recommendation and a recommendation for the museum

Part I: A Museum Recommendation

On Thursday I had a chance to attend a preview of a new exhibit called Magritte and Contemporary Art which opens tomorrow at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Of course, the art is impressive, including more than 60 works by Magritte, and another 60 or so by artists including Barbara Krueger, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, etc. But the exhibit installation is one of the best examples of museum space enhancing the artwork that I’ve ever seen.

LACMADesigned by John Baldessari, the museum space is transformed into a surreal experience worthy of the artwork it contains. The floor is a carpeted Magritte-esque sky. The ceiling is covered with images of freeways. The guards all wear suits and bowlers, like they’ve stepped out of a Magritte painting. The entrance to the exhibit is a larger-than-life replica of Magritte’s painting The Unexpected Answer. When you enter the exhibit, it’s like walking into Magritte’s world. For a different exhibit, something like this could have been distracting, cheesy, or overbearing. But for this exhibit, it was just right.

Part II: A Recommendation for the Museum

After looking at the wonderful exhibit, I was thinking of buying the museum’s accompanying book. So I went to the gift shop to check it out. I’m sad to say that the paintings in the book are ugly. The colors are all wrong. I have experience photographing fine art for publication, and I know it’s tough to reproduce colors accurately, but we have the technology to at least come pretty close. But these were so far off that even someone unfamiliar with the paintings might wonder if that’s really what the artist intended. Some paintings had weird tints to them. Others were over-saturated. A painting with a deep blue nighttime sky was printed so light that it practically appeared to be daytime. The different colors changed the whole feel of the artwork. It was really unfortunate. I hope they can fix this problem for future print runs.

musuemAlso, LACMA needs to check their cash registers. When I made a purchase, I received a receipt with the name of the museum misspelled. How long has it been like that? Someone should be paying more attention to detail.

Update: The New York Times has a nice video about the exhibit including interview segments with John Baldessari.