Tag Archives: LARB Los Angeles Review of Books


If [Peter Zumthor’s] new design is built, LACMA can no longer be associated with other encyclopedic museums in the United States that shaped their collections in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. Zumthor’s diminished plan would force it to shed the encyclopedic collections that are the very soul of the museum. It commits the original architectural sin of narcissism, of architecture for the sake of architecture.

This let-the-public-chew-concrete moment is all the more shameful because LACMA has gone ahead with demolition just as COVID-19 has taken over the country, state, county, and city, closing down all but essential activities. The administrations of two other museums under construction in Los Angeles — the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Exposition Park — have had the common decency to stop construction, admitting they are non-essential projects, and, hence, not worth risking the health of construction workers. Under the phony pretense that it suddenly cares for the public after having ignored public opinion for over a decade, LACMA claims its intent is to infuse (mostly public) money into the local economy, as though suddenly this deeply selfish boondoggle had an altruistic purpose: job creation. — Joseph Giovannini*

As an imaginary counter to what Giovannini calls LACMA director Michael Govan’s “fait accompli,” the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA accepted proposals from twenty-eight international architectural firms and collections, choosing six final designs in two categories: “Existing Buildings” and “Ground Up.”

The six designs are by Barkow Leibinger, Berlin, with Lillian Montalvo Landscape Design; Coop Himmelb(l)au, Vienna; Kaya Design, London; Paul Murdoch Architects, Los Angeles; Reiser + Umemoto, New York City; and TheeAe (The Evolved Architectural Eclectic), Hong Kong.

See link below for details.

LACMA not LackMA

*Joseph Giovannini, “Demolition Under Cover of Covid-19,” Los Angeles Review of Books, May, 1, 2020.

This week, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight won the Pulitzer Prize for his series of articles criticizing Zumthor’s design and Govan’s advocacy of it.

From top, designs by: Re(in)novating LACMA, by Reiser + Umemoto, New York (2); Unified Campus, by Paul Murdoch Architects, Los Angeles (2); HILLACMA, by TheeAe (The Evolved Architectural Eclectic), Hong Kong (2); LACMA Wing, by Coop Himmelb(l)au, Vienna; Reimagining / Restructuring, by Saffet Kaya Design, London (2); Tabula LACMA, by Barkow Leibinger, Berlin, with Lillian Montalvo Landscape Design (2). Images courtesy and © the architects and the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA.


“I try to take the long view. I think that every epoch has had its fantastical producers. I’m really interested in Manny Farber right now. He had two classifications for art: white elephant art—this huge thing, Stella, Koons, Canova, Cabanel—and termite art: Manet, Moyra Davey.

“I try to be sanguine about that quality of what’s possible with art. I do think art used to have a fantasy that it was separate from life, and we know now that it’s not.” — Helen Molesworth, PARIS LA 14  (2016)

“[White Elephant] was a term for work that made large claims of importance and was therefore burdened with all kinds of ungraceful exposition and prescriptive social thinking, as opposed to something like film noir—which is Termite Art—stuff that just burrowed into experience and ended up saying quite a lot more about American life and which Farber believed was more mysterious and lively and compressed and radiated more meaning because it didn’t bother trying to be important…

“I loved the termite position before I was old enough to have any self-conscious thoughts about what it meant.” — Jonathan Lethem, LARB, 2016

Molesworth—curator of ONE DAY AT A TIME—MANNY FARBER AND TERMITE ART, now at MOCA—will join Lethem this week to talk about Farber and his “notion of termite art—an exploration of the problems and pleasures of the everyday—as it appears within fine art, cinema, writing, and life.”*



Thursday, October 18, at 7 pm.



Through March 11.

MOCA Grand Avenue, 250 Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles.


See Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber, ed. Robert Polito (New York: Library of America, 2009).

Lethem is a contributor to Termite Deluxe: Manny Farber Writings and Paintings, a forthcoming volume exploring Farber’s life and work.

Top: Manny Farber, undated photograph, courtesy Patricia Patterson.

Above: Manny FarberStory of the Eye (detail), 1985; oil, graphite and masking tape on board. Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.

Below: Manny Farber, Domestic Movies, 1985; oil on board. ResMed collection, San Diego.

Image credit: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.