Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holiday Everybody!

Be warm, safe and happy, with your friends and family. Enjoy the holidays, and best wishes for 2009 when FBC! returns. I wish you all luck and good health and happiness, and for myself... a job in Los Angeles.

I found the picture above here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Captain Obvious And The MOCA Saga

UPDATE: at 9.15 PM PST, please read the NYT article, and don't jump to conclusions.

It's Thursday, and there's another MOCA Board meeting today, which Eli Broad will attend. As I've said all along - I'm putting this sentence here because you're apparently not a blogger if you don't hammer the fact that you wrote the exact same thing a week ago, and you're fabulously right. Bloggers have to be priggish and condescending, in case we'd be mistaken for real journalists who have to dabble in more facts than opinions - anyway, as I've said before, methinks Broad is the best option, and so does Broad apparently, if we believe what Christopher Knight writes today in the LAT "Culture Monster" blog. I'd suggest you guys read it rather than the opinions of agitated bloggers, including my own sweet self, because Knight is better informed, and he's paid to follow the story, which my Frenchy self isn't.

There's been an uproar against the proposed LACMA merger, with bloggers left and right thinking LACMA only interest is in grabbing MOCA's collection and leading the museum on a leash. As an aside, there's been a very funny exchange between Brady Westwater and Rosette Delug (MOCA Trustee) on their respective "walls" on Facebook. I doubt both read FBC!, but, hem, if someone knows Delug, please let her know it's possible to adjust her privacy settings on FB. (Just sayin'). Still on Facebook the MOCA Mobilization group has been rather quiet, maybe because their initial goal of getting 10,000 signatures on their petition, downgraded to 5,000, hasn't been met.

What no ones seems to have considered about the LACMA official proposal, because my esteemed blogger-colleagues apparently don't really know how museums are run from the inside, is that this famous proposal may have been designed by LACMA precisely to look like an unacceptable solution to push the MOCA Board to accept Eli Broad's proposal instead. Because, you see, it isn't in LACMA's best interest to merge with MOCA and suddenly find itself morphing from an encyclopedic museum to a bloated contemporary art operator with 3 geographically distinct facilities, and now dwarfed collections of classical or non-Western art left behind to be, what? Rejuvenated by contemporary artists? After a while it starts to be stale, you know. In addition, LACMA cannot afford the expenses of adding staff (in case you wondered: only a tiny fraction of LACMA's staff is paid by the County), maintaining more facilities when their own trustees cannot find the will to upgrade conservation and storage, etc.
In short t is no more desirable for LACMA to merge with MOCA than it is for MOCA to be chained to LACMA. But LACMA had been approached, they had to make a formal move toward the MOCA Board, and they came up with whatever would be possible conceptually for LACMA in case they had no other choice as well but merge to keep MOCA's collection in Los Angeles.

And for Tyler Green who was up in arms about the fact that the proposal seemed like a swipe at Jeremy Strick during embattled times: a) having two directors leading one merged institution seems impracticable if not ludicrous and b) I cannot imagine a Board accepting a merger while keeping a leadership that has proven ineffective, and c) Christopher Knight yesterday called for Jeremy's resignation as well, and I'm sure Knight likes Jeremy as well as the next person.
Knight finally said what everybody in Los Angeles knows: Jeremy is the nicest guy ever, and everybody likes him, but he grandiosely failed at leading the museum in a responsible fiscal manner. While drawing a salary that's a little bit inflated in comparison to MOCA's deficit. I personally think Jeremy should stay on until the museum is out of the woods, that is, if it accepts Broad's proposal, if only because there's no one else to act at the time being.

And finally, I'm going to play the blogger/journalist game of "this is what you people should do, look how I'm right at virtually managing museums from my laptop": Not only the MOCA Board should be well inspired to accept Broad's proposal and to ask for Jeremy's resignation, as well as renew itself with more competent members, but when it finally finds the magic person who's going to direct this museum, it should hire a real manager as well. No, not the mythical "art person who's a beloved fundraiser who can also run the day-to-day operations while being fiscally conservative". What MOCA, like every museum needs, is one Director who's in charge of the program, etc AND a second person who's doing all the boring legwork and accepts the unrewarding position of being an able administrator. Look at LACMA: without Melody Kanschat, Michael Govan would have much more trouble running the museum as it is. And when MOCA has found this magic team, the next director should be very well inspired to rethink what MOCA's position is in a city where the museum landscape is already littered with contemporary art institutions, how to stand out locally as well as internationally.

Anyway, this is my last post about it, I'm really sick of the saga. And no "Your Social Life" today as well. I'm sure you can manage without me.

Picture of Captain Obvious found here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The MOCA Suspense Is Unbearable...

If you've been following the drama, you've seen the LAT article about the offer of a merger with LACMA, under its current leadership. If you read it carefully, basically what it does is accepting the collection in exchange for ... only shouldering the operating expenses. It doesn't haul MOCA out of the hole it dug itself in, so financially it's not the best solution.
Basically what it's saying is, if you guys have to declare bankruptcy, we'll make sure you fab' collection stays in LA, we'll help you run your day-to-day operations, while maintaining the pretense of independence for your institution.
I can see many reasons why this wouldn't work (deciding which exhibition gets staged where, dealing with an over-inflated curatorial team in the Contemporary Art Dept. as well as the cultural shock for MOCA staff when dealing with LACMA's bureaucracy. As well as the impracticality for LACMA of running a satellite operation with 2 distant buildings, and how it would tilt its operating budget away from the "encyclopedic" premises the museum has been founded upon.
Nevertheless, given how MOCA's Board has run itself so far, they may choose it. I still think they'd be better inspired by accepting Eli Broad's offer, but we can now only wait and see... Stay tuned, and let's cross fingers!

UPDATE: there's no update, except that Michael Govan (hi Michael!) expands a tiny bit (not really) on the merger proposal, and that at almost 6PM tonight there is no leak yet or press release about MOCA's Board meeting. No doubt we'll know more later (this is the emptiest filler I've ever written, how more obvious a sentence can be, tell me?). Meanwhile, the LACMA offer looks more like a PR move than anything else, so far. They've been approached, they had to say something about it, so they adopted the stance that would offer as much help as they can, within their means. Whichever way you look, they could only do so: if they refuse the merger they appear like cold-hearted selfish beasts, and if they swallow MOCA they seem greedy and opportunistic. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.
In any case, we'll see.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Your Social Life - Short Edition

There's plenty of things to do this weekend in Los Angeles, despite the rain and the cold that are coming, but I'm not into going out at all, so I'll provide you with the short edition. I'm sure you can do a bit of legwork yourself if you deem FBC!'s list insufficient for your voracious social cravings.

Your weekend starts tonight with two concurrent events, the 7 PM Holiday Party and Live Auction at LAXart where, if you have a bit of money, you can bid on some fabulous Christmas or Hanukkah presents AND support a space that's as vital to Los Angeles as MOCA. The tickets cost $50 which isn't that much for this type of event, but probably a bit too much for unemployed nerds like me. But if I had money to spend I'd be there.
The second event tonight is at REDCAT where you can see a bunch of worthy art historians, curators and artist to present a "significant image" (of their own choosing) for one minute, an idea appropriated by Micol Hebron from Agnès Varda. I'm not among the worthies, so I won't show up, obviously. As a performance event it may be interesting, nevertheless as an art historian I just think the concept demonstrates perfectly how today most people are unable to spend MORE than one minute in front of an image to look at it, and say something meaningful about it. Some of the worthies tonight are friends of mine, so please buddies don't take this personally, I just think it proves how the contemporary culture is unable to consider pictures on a deep level if one has been stuffed with too much theory, and done too little looking.
Ask the very same people to spend 1 hour each in front of the same choice they decided upon, and make it a 40-hour long series of events as a follow-up, and now I'd be interested (though I'd add as a rule people should be barred from dwelling on the personal). It costs $12, if you feel like participating in it. Personally if I were a Deus Ex-Machina I'd put all the participants on stage and would ask them to spend that hour I was speaking about being eloquent about, oh, I don't know, one of Stella's Black Paintings, or a minor 18th century Dutch landscape, or just one of those Shepard Fairey propaganda posters (without a slogan, otherwise it's too easy). I think we'd get a really interesting result. If you're still up after (or before) the 1 minute per image event, you can stay downtown and join the regular Downtown Art Walk. Since you will be walking you can get yourself a drink as well.

OK, so by Saturday you should feel like forgetting about all these images worth only one minute of important art people's time, so why not go and attend the closing of Morgan Fisher exhibition at China Art Objects? You will be able to watch his work at your leisure, and hang out with Morgan who's the coolest post-structuralist filmmaker, as they say in art schools, as well as being simply a very good artist.
Before heading over to Chinatown, you can spend your lunch hour at the Pacific Design Center outpost of beleaguered MOCA and attend the Lari Pittman and Catherine Opie book signing. Hurry, while we still have MOCA in Los Angeles! Go to the bottom of the page I'm linking to for complete information about time, location, etc.

On Sunday it will be raining, so instead of doing Christmas shopping, I'd say why don't you go visit and support your local museums? LACMA, MOCA, the Hammer, SMMOA, the Norton Simon, the Getty... plenty of places to go to, and if really you do freak out about buying presents, head over to their bookstores and buy art catalogues to your loved ones. Much better and more durable than ugly sweaters, and better for your weight management than boxes of cookies.

The picture above, Maya Schindler, Who Wants To Be A MIllionaire (white), 2008, Paint on mylar, features in tonight auction at LAXart, so if you feel like offering me a present for Christmas you know where to look for. I pinched the pic from LAXart website.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Where Incompetence Has Lead Us

We've read a lot about MOCA over the last few weeks. Now something my art readers here in Los Angeles may not have noticed is how incredibly bad out local paper has become, thanks to the incompetence of a zillionnaire Chicagoan who cultivates an unfortunate resemblance with a giant garden gnome, Sam Zell. Remember when Ron Burkle with Eli Broad (who wanted to run the paper as a non-profit foundation) and David Geffen were competing to buy the Los Angeles Times? They didn't succeed, and instead Uncle Scrooge grabbed our newspaper. Now, about a year later, a good hundred layoffs later, our paper gutted out of its substance, Uncle Scrooge is filling for bankruptcy.
If LA art lovers cannot imagine a town without MOCA, try to imagine it without the LA Times. I have no idea what's gonna happen to it, and if as usual everybody is going to ask Eli Broad to the rescue. If it happens, he will inherit a newspaper whose very blood has been drained, where good journalists have been replaced by bloggers, and where we have to endure the unbearable stupidity and condescension of columnist Jonah Goldberg and Joel Stein.
I remember when the LAT was a good paper, much more progressive than the NYT. It was weak on covering culture and the arts, but was really good on the environment, and was kindly inclined toward the poor. Now we're left with a lightweight paper, an impossible to search website and a gazillions poorly written blogs about real estate porn and doggie bling, thanks to Sam Zell and his incredible foresight. Now, Mr. Zell, please stop being stupid and resell our beautiful LAT to Broad or Geffen or whatever billionaire who lives here wants to buy it, and go manage your Cubs, OK? You'll do us a favor.

I found the picture here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Niamh O'Malley - Torch

Since we're looking at gorgeous would-be Christmas presents, I suggest for those of you in Ireland (or outside Ireland) to have a look at Niamh O'Malley "Torch", a to-die-for but impossible-to-take-a-good-jpeg-of exhibition catalog for a show she had in April 2008 at Temple Bar Gallery & Studio in Dublin. I don't really know how you can find it outside of here so here's the ISBN: 978-1-903895-99-3.
There's a beautiful essay by Brian Dillon of Cabinet fame, and the pictures inside the book are beautiful. Unfortunately the cover is printed on glossy black paper, and my tiny digital camera as well as my sub-par photography skills prevent me from doing it justice in the pictures above. Trust me, it is an art catalog you want to have, and it's the size of a paperback. It will look very elegant on your coffee table, and you will learn a lot about blind spots and the history of their discovery. In passing, Brian Dillon's essay is also very good because it does something most contemporary art critics neglect to do: it describes the pieces, and with such clarity you can figure out easily how the art must looks like. What it cannot do is make us feel how it is to watch the projections and video described, so if you find yourself in the vicinity of an art space where O'Malley's art is exhibited, do go see it.

One Drawing A Day Takes The Doctor Away - 2009 by Mrzyk and Moriceau

FBC! got a great present in the mail yesterday, in advance of Christmas: Petra Mrzyk and Jean-François Moriceau's 2009 Ephéméride, a daily calendar where every day is illustrated by a drawing. It's gorgeous, and you should consider it an artist book. Here are a few pics. One caveat: the glue is very strong, so separate each leaf very carefully or you risk damaging some of the drawings. It's an inexpensive daily calendar, but since it's an art edition, be careful with the paper cutter! If you can't afford it, you can see the drawings here, and if you're in Paris before January 10 you can go see them in person at the gallery Air de Paris (the picture of the gallery is lifted from their website) and maybe buy one real drawing (only in the 3 figures, if you're asking) while you're at it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Your Social Life Not At Art Basel Miami Beach!

Yeepee! Like the art market next year, after everybody realizes how bad the recession is, here in Los Angeles today we are now between ourselves. Unlike my chic Frenchy self, and you, my classy readers, many artsy-fartsy mindfucks are now vulgarly displaying their wanton greed and lack of class by pretending to shop (but really are partying at art dealer's expenses) in Miami Beach. For the small minority of my non-art readers, this time of the year is when the art world congregates to Miami because a shitload of art fairs are taking place there.
So many it's hard to keep count and recognize what's what (there's Art Basel Miami Beach, the one and only, Nada, Pulse, Scope, etc, etc) so basically every segment of the art market is there. Some of these people will no doubt discuss the current MOCA troubles, in between hard bargaining for discounts, numerous nasal trips to the restrooms, and for the already broke ones, booze and schmoozing and schmooze and boozing.
We in Los Angeles are not vulgar enough, we're more inclined to intellectual and cultural pursuits, as I said. Now is the time to go see all the shows you haven't seen in LA yet (yay!) and frequent a few openings and benefits (I didn't say "openings with benefits", as I have no control over your salacious minds.)

OK, so what's there to do? Saturday you will have to drive between Pasadena, Hollywood and West Adams.
In Pasadena there's Techno Eyes For The Brewery Finale @ The Armory, at the Armory then as I'm sure you have gathered, with several FBC! pals: April Durham, Will Fowler and Pam Strugar, as well as Linda Parnell and Jill Poyourow, from 6 to 9 PM.
In Hollywood C4 Gallery has an opening with someone who is an old pal as well, and a very good photographer, Matthew Betcher, and Frank Poole who I do not know, but will discover on Sat. It's from 6 to 11 PM, and if you look at the jpeg invite above it gives you tricks about parking in Hollywood on a Sat. evening (can't they move the clubbing to the Valley or Orange County for God's sake? )
And in West Adams is the benefit for Les Figues Press, from 7 to 11PM. Suggested donation is $15-$25, a trifle to support literature, don't you think?
Before you do all this, you can also spend the afternoon in Chinatown and catch up on the Darren Almond show at Dave Patton.

Sunday, goodness gracious, what can you do on Sunday while your moneyed friends in Miami are trying to nurse their hangover? You can cultivate and elevate your mind in Pasadena while attending the 3 PM discussion about Duchamp at the Norton Simon, between Simon Leung and George Baker. FBC! has written one of her master theses on "Original and facsimiles in contemporary museography: Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass and Readymades" under Thierry de Duve (sometimes, I feel the need to brag, sorry) so I'll try to attend if I can.
Speaking of lectures and Duchampian scholars, de Duve I believe is in residence at the GRI at present so hopefully he and you will attend Ken Gonzalez-Day's Tuesday 3.30 PM lecture "Of the Love of Mankind - and other “Failed” Systems"at the Getty Museum's Lecture Hall. It's not on the Getty website, so I think it's one of the "closed" events for which you have to RSVP: 310 440 7438 or email: SSchlosser AT getty DOT edu

And I'll announce it again next week, but don't forget LAXart holiday party and live auction, next Thursday.

Have fun out of Miami! You can join us at the Faceboog group here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

MOCA Drama: Eli Broad Repeats Exactly What He Had Previously Written In The LAT Because People In LA Cannot Read

Wow, this must be the longest title I've ever written on FBC! If you dig through the archives and found one that's longer, you're entitled to take me out for coffee (hey, I'm unemployed!) and I'll tell you how Eli is in real life. Hint: he's taller than me. And he sometimes wear neckties which aren't red.

Anyway, the agitation about the current MOCA drama has been going on for a few days now, mainly on Facebook and on various blogs. Lot's of jumping all over the place and running around, petitions, letters to be written to your County people in charge, blah blah blah. The FB group organizers were disappointed this weekend because their petition hadn't reached 10, 000 signees, er, may I remind you it was a holiday? People were traveling and indigesting?
If I were not in such a crappy mood today I'd wax all ironical about the discussions on the FB group, of some threads being swallowed in the great cyberspace nothingness on account of "profanity and stupidity" (come on, you people, we're all grown-ups, we can endure these), etc.

There are a gazillion bloggers (hello Frenchy!) posting their own remedies and grandiose plans for the future, sometimes in a somewhat self-aggrandizing manner, but which are all moot anyway because the Board of Trustees is meeting in less than 2 weeks, and Eli Broad just re-explained to Culture Monster what his offer is. It's very generous, there are no strings attached, yes he'd expect some matching funds but not right now this very minute, and he's not even asking for Jeremy's head or the Board of Trustees to go renew itself in a more efficient way (on another hand, maybe he should show the same spirit toward LAUSD).
I say, please let Eli Broad play Santa. We all need a bit of a Christmas spirit, life sucks for too many people presently to pass this over. Meanwhile, if people on the FB group read this, next time, before you jump to conclusions, please spend the time to read what Broad had written in the first place, it was all spelled out in the clearest manner ever. Not his fault if the LAT ninnies put the wrong headline over his op-ed/letter.

PS: there are various reasons why I put up this LolCat pic here, use your brain to find them, the most original response will also get to take me out to coffee and be told gossip about your favorite museum director or curator, as long is one I know personally. Otherwise I cannot tell you what type of underwear they favor.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Walnut Caramel Tart To Soothe Your MOCA Anxiety

That's right, if you're like me you're a bit sick of all the MOCA drama, of everybody blogging his/her solutions and wondering why why why nothing happened yet? Duh, it was Thanksgiving weekend, do you expect MOCA Trustees to reach a decision at a pre-holiday brainstorming bash?
Anyway, since it's holiday season and there hasn't been any foodie-related thing posted here, I thought I should divert your worried ruminations with a festive tart recipe that was very successful last Thursday. I've also made 4 quarts of turkey stock but it doesn't look too good in pictures, so here's the tart instead.

Basic Tart Dough:

250g white flour (I use King Arthur)
125 butter
30g confectioner's sugar
1 egg
1 pinch of salt

250g walnuts
150g sugar
35cl creme fraiche (about 2 tubs Trader Joe's creme fraiche)
30g butter
1 generous dash of rum
vanilla extract

1) mix the flour with the soft (room temperature) butter cut in small pieces, mix well until it looks sandy, ,add sugar and salt, stir well, add the egg, mix well, roll the dough into a ball, put in plastic wrap int he fridge for about 1 hour
(NB: you can mix all ingredients in a stand mixer as well, but I don't have one).

Preheat oven at 400F.
Roll out the dough, spread it in a buttered and floured pan (I use a quiche dish), pick the dough with a fork in several places, and pre-cook the dough int he oven for 20 minutes. Usually recipes recommend you spread dried beans over wax paper on the tart dough to avoid shrinking and air bubbles, but I basically fit a second, smaller metallic tart pan over the dough and it works wonders.

2) Filling.
Heat the creme fraiche in a pot. It's OK if it boils, it won't turn sour, but it's not necessary. In another tall pot, make a caramel by heating the sugar with 2 tablespoons water. The caramel is ready for the second stage when it becomes a nice light brown color and is bubbly rather than frothy. Take it out of the burner (I put it down in my sink) and add the heated creme fraiche. WATCH OUT it's very, very hot. Wait for the projections to subside so you can mix the creme fraiche more thoroughly with the caramel. Put the caramel melange back on the stove, stir with your wooden spoon, when the caramel makes big bubbles, take it out of the stove, wait a minute or two, add the rum and the vanilla, stir well. Throw the walnuts into the caramel, stir well so each walnut is entirely coated with caramel. Normally you obtain a large mass of walnut and caramel, and a bit of liquid caramel stays at the bottom of the pan.
Pour the walnut/caramel mixture on the pre-baked tart dough, level the top with a spatula. Try to tilt the tart mold sideways a couple of time so the liquid caramel stays equally level. Put everything back in the oven for 10 minutes, still at 400F.
Let the tart cool off to before eating it. Rather than add more sweetness to it, if you absolutely feel like having some dairy when eating it I'd suggest you do so with a dollop of creme fraiche, rather than whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy, and stop thinking about MOCA for a few minutes, OK?