A Redesigned LACMA Is Years Away... But We Have Photos

View west down Wilshire Boulevard, rendering of David Geffen Galleries at LACMA. (Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary)

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The $750-million expansion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art won't open for another four years, but LACMA has just started sharing renderings of its dramatic new galleries that will span Wilshire Boulevard.

Unlike the bulky and stolid galleries that have housed LACMA's collection and temporary exhibits in the past, the new David Geffen Galleries are curvy, low and framed with floor-to-ceiling glass.

The design of the new 110,000-square-foot galleries doesn't dictate how you view the art — it isn't "hierarchical, with no front and no back," Michael Govan, LACMA's director, said. "All the art is on one level. Your path through the building can be whatever you like."

Terrace and north entrance galleries, exhibition level, rendering of David Geffen Galleries at LACMA. (Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary)

The galleries will be organized around exposure to light. Objects such as sculpture and statuary will be located closer to the windows, while more sensitive parts of the collection — like centuries-old paintings or tapestries — will be further away.

The renderings were first supposed to come out earlier this year, but despite the delay Govan said the project is still on schedule.

State of demolition at LACMA in April. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

He said demolition of existing museum structures dating back to the 1960s to make room for Swiss architect Peter Zumthor's campus expansion is well underway, and that he does not anticipate any construction delays caused by the pandemic.

The rough floor plans for the 26 galleries inside the new building wasn't the only new design shared for the first time. Govan also highlighted how spaces underneath and adjacent to the Geffen galleries—more than three acres — will be used.

The plans call for a wine bar, a 300-seat theater (not far from the larger auditorium being built for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum) and exterior and interior spaces for education and live performances.

LACMA hired the Pritzker Prize-winning Zumthor in 2009, and the museum approved his design in 2014. The museum's environmental review went from 2016 to 2019, after which the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and City Council approved the project and granted the necessary permits. The county is paying $125 million for the expansion.

Govan acknowledged that even if the new galleries are designed to offer a new way to understand and experience art history, the museum's collection has some catching up to do, and will continue to look for works well outside the Western/European tradition.

And, given the renderings of galleries walled by thick gray concrete, curators will face another dilemma: How do you actually hang something?

Exterior view west toward the Resnick Pavilion, rendering of David Geffen Galleries at LACMA. (Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary)

And here's a look at the original rendering released last year:

The 2019 renderings for the new LACMA (Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner)