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Arts and Entertainment

BCAM's Art Makes the Brits Say LA's Legit

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Since the recent opening of LACMA's Broad Contemporary (BCAM) a flurry of international eyes have been on Los Angeles, and an ensuing flurry of words have issued forth in review. It seems irresistible to review the Broad without also reviewing the city that houses it, which was precisely the tact taken by Chris Haslam in London's Sunday Times today.

It takes Haslam seven paragraphs into his article to even mention the precise reason he is considering the art of LA. In those seven paragraphs he mentions chick flicks, hybrid cars, ambulance chasers, Universal Studios, Main Street, gangs, the Huntington Library, rats, Valencia, Disney Hall, Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral ("Taj Mahoney"), Staples Center, Grand Avenue, and, of course, Dorothy Parker's witticism that Los Angeles is just suburbs in search of a center.

Sigh. We're devoid of culture, we're diseased (an extended metaphor about heart sickness and pill dependency, natch), and we need to be saved. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Yawn.

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So before you count how many paragraphs it takes me to get to my point, I offer you this, from Haslam:

The shallowest city on earth has been pimping its artistic attractions for years, but since that was like Burger King announcing it sold salads, nobody paid much attention. After all, this is the city where cultural tourism means finding Britney’s house on a map of the homes of the stars. So when LA announced the gala opening of the Broad Contemporary Arts Museum (BCAM) on an old car park, my expectations were matched only by my enthusiasm. Or, as the locals say, I was, like, whatever, dude.

Frequent use of "like, whatever, dude," having lost its lustre probably when the Olsen twins had "you got it, dude" on a tape loop in the Full House days aside, Haslam actually likes the BCAM. In fact, I might even so boldly suggest he hearts it, and that gets his heart to thinking Los Angeles might have a heart after all.
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Koons (pictured), Hirst, Warhol, Rothko, Rauschenberg, Baldessari, Basquiat. Haslam concedes "this is a world-beating collection." He's so moved, in fact, that suddenly the distance between Malibu and San Marino isn't so unmanageable, since he touts a visit to the Getty Villa and the Chinese Gardens at the Huntington without a mention of the horrific tangle of freeways one might have to navigate in order to cross the wasteland of our city to see both. He's even urging the Sunday Times readers to consider the Museum of Latin American Art, for goodness' sake! Doesn't he realize it's all the way down in....Long Beach?!

But what Mr. Haslam seems to be neglecting is the fact that no one of late has probably asserted that people come to our fair city for its art, despite the fact that a great deal of art and architecture lives and thrives here. Nor does he seem to know much about the not-so-distant history of Los Angeles, where art and its often tagalong companion of bohemian culture was our calling card. Perhaps he should consider the rich artistic legacy of North East Los Angeles, in areas like Garvanza, where the Arts & Crafts movement began and resided at the start of the 20th century. How about the California Art Club and the plein air painters who immortalized our rugged landscapes in oils and watercolors? Or, in light of the celluloid superficiality Haslam refers to, he should consider the simple fact that this city was built on what was once a revolutionary art form: Moving pictures. While granted the film industry teeters between ugly commercialism (its worst) and cinematic art (its best), it is still an art form, and our very own. It might not be something visitors can easily point to on a map, but it is quintessentially Angeleno.

Suddenly, 178 pieces of contemporary art assembled into one collection make Los Angeles an art-centric and redeemable town to visit. Come to Los Angeles, and see Britney Spears' house, Haslam proclaims. (He even lists her Beverly Hills address, no less.)

And then, the benediction: "But, above all, you should come for the art."

Thank you, sir, we're truly blessed.

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Photo of the BCAM exterior by pink_fish13 via Flickr, and of Koons' work inside the museum by Lush.i.ous via the LAist Featured Photos Pool on Flickr