Dancing With a Devil You Know

Municipal Art Gallery in Hollywood

The other day this article about the Municipal Art Gallery showed up in the Culture Monster blog at LA Times and my first thought was “The hell?  There’s a Municipal Art Gallery?”  Turns out not only IS there a Municipal Art Gallery, but it’s been around since 1951.  I really have no excuse for not knowing this earlier.

So I wondered why, in the 20+ years I’ve been an Angeleno, I’d never heard of it.  Maybe because during most of my time here it attracted a total annual attendance of roughly 4000…in a city just under 4 million.  Even if it had 100 times the name recognition, that’s still only about 10% of Angelenos even knowing this place exists.  Recently, the Gallery dropped its admission and saw its attendance improve to 30,000, but the question remains as to why so lovely a facility that specialized in exhibiting local emerging and mid-career artists has so little name recognition.  Is it because it was a city run facility or is it that LA itself just doesn’t do a good job of supporting its own arts community? Or is it just the feudal nature of Los Angeles that keeps the vast majority of Angelenos from venturing too far from their own little fiefdoms?  I really don’t know, I’m just really surprised to have just learned about this museum.  (And if there’s an Angeleno reading, please let me know if a) you’ve heard of this museum b) ever been and c) have any answers to my questions.)

So in an effort to save the museum, MOCA is proposing to take it over and a fear of the unknown, as well as the known mission of MOCA, is causing museum supporters to  decry the potential shift.  But are the concerns worth blocking a deal that could save the gallery?  Or would saving it, but diluting its mission and basically losing another facility for local artists to exhibit, be the greater error?  And when did MOCA become this big bad that’s threatening to overtake everything in Los Angeles that hasn’t been annexed by the Westside Pavilions.  How long has all this been going on?

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2 Responses to Dancing With a Devil You Know

  1. BOB CALAME says:

    DINA,

    SOMETIMES WHAT HAPPENS (I THINK) IS THAT THESE TYPES OF MUSEEMS TEND TO BECOME “NICHE” PLACES. MOST PEOPLE WILL COME OUT IN FORCE FOR A DISPLAY OF REMBRANTS, PICASSO’S ETC. WHAT A LOT OF PEOPLE FORGET IS THAT EVEN THOSE GUYS WERE ONCE UNKNOWN, NEW ARTISTS. IT’S A LITTLE BIT ART SNOBBERY (IF THAT IS A WORD) COUPLED WITH WHAT YOU DESCRIBED AS THEM NOT LEAVING THEIR OWN LITTLE FIEFDOMS AND GATED COMMUNITIES TO VENTUE OUT WITH THE REST OF THE GREAT UNWASHED. DOLLARS TO DONUTS THERE IS A MUSEEM LIKE THIS IN NYC THAT ON A PER CENTAGE BASIS HAS ABOUT THE SAME ATTENDANCE.

    THANKS FOR THE SNAPSHOT OF LA CULTURE

    • Dina says:

      It’s certainly appears to be a niche facility, but it’s a niche that a city with a solid arts community would be more rather than less likely to support. Everyone knows about the large museums and their exhibits for important artists, but if Art Walk can attract more 10+ thousand people every month, there are other reasons for the Museum Art Gallery to have such poor attendance. Art “snobs” aren’t looking for the big exhibits, because that’s where the “unwashed masses” will be.

      And LA doesn’t have gated communities. That’s Orange County.

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