Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Christina Quarles
Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Launch Party May 19, 2018
at Karma International
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
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Chris Kraus
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Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
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iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
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Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
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Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
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Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
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Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Launch Party
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
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Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
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Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
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Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
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Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
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David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
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Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
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Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
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Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
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L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
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Julie Wietz
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at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
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Launch Party November 18, 2017
at the Landing
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Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Launch Party August 19th at Blum and Poe
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
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Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Launch Party May 13, 2017
at Commonwealth and Council
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party February 18, 2017
at Shulamit Nazarian
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Launch Party Carla Issue 4
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Launch Party Carla Issue 3
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Distribution
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Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Museum as Selfie Station

Instagram selfie by @huyfinity in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, (1965/2017) at The Broad.

Should a trip to the museum be about entertainment or cultural enrichment? And relatedly, who exactly is the museum for, educated aesthetes or “the great unwashed”? Since the Museum Age of the 19th century, the institution has been grappling with these questions. Many U.S. museums began as showrooms for the collections of prosperous industrialists, who only reluctantly agreed to open their doors to the public in exchange for land or tax breaks. At the same time, exhibitions like 1851’s Great Exhibition in London appealed to, and welcomed, a broad audience, reportedly seeing 6,000,000 visitors pass through its halls. Embodying these dichotomies is one of the guiding principles of the British Museum, which specified that its collections were “not only for the inspection and entertainment of the learned and the curious, but for the general use and benefit of the public.”1 Although its origins may be rooted in social stratification, it is no question that the audience for public museums is now considered to be the general public.

The idea of spectacle in art is certainly nothing new. Pre-photography, crowds would line up to see paintings of natural wonders while, in the mid-1800s, P.T. Barnum built the collection of oddities and freaks he was well known for, founding Barnum’s American Museum in lower Manhattan, which reportedly attracted 15,000 visitors daily.2 Museums have long tried to entice audiences with blockbuster exhibitions on the wonders of Ancient Egypt or Masters of Impressionism.

But the current trend towards the spectacular is powered primarily by developments outside of the museum world, from the spheres of tech, marketing, and finance, where being an “influencer” has just as much social cred as being a curator. New models are emerging that focus exclusively on spectacle, sharing more in common with commercial trade shows than with the traditional museum exhibition.

Take for example, the Museum of Ice Cream (MoIC), a wildly popular “experience” of Instagrammable moments, founded by 25-year old Maryellis Bunn, whom New York Magazine dubbed the “Millennial Walt Disney.”3 It is not surprising that the MoIC is more branding opportunity and photo-op than conventional museum, given Bunn’s previous role as the head of forecasting and innovation for Time Inc. For $38, visitors can wander through the social media-friendly maze of candy-colored, interactive exhibits, culminating in a pool of synthetic sprinkles. (Plastic sprinkles which so cluttered the streets surrounding their Miami Beach pop-up that they were considered an environmental hazard and the Museum was fined $3,000 by the city.)4

“The old traditional experiences—take museums, for example—are the institutions that become more and more archaic,” Bunn told New York Magazine. “They just haven’t been able to reformulate for the shifts in what people are interested in.” It is worth noting that Bunn and her partner chose to center their experiential museum around ice cream in large part because it retained its general popularity through the last recession.

Another popular museum-cum- spectacle is 29Rooms, organized by lifestyle blog Refinery29, which appropriately features 29 rooms “curated” by artists, brands, and celebrities, including Jake Gyllenhaal and Jill Soloway. It is an “interactive funhouse of style, culture, and technology brought to life by a group of global artists and visionaries across mediums, and powered by you,” reads the website’s description. This last point is a shared thread among many of these experiences dubbed “Big Fun Art” by Artnet’s Ben Davis5—in that they claim to wrest power away from elitist institutions and place it back in the hands of the people.

“Big Fun Art doesn’t require any historical knowledge, context, or even patience to be enjoyed (except the patience of waiting in a line),” writes Davis. “On the other hand, that also means you don’t really need something like a museum to vouchsafe it.”6 It is a populism that echoes our current political moment, where insiders are enemies, experts are not to be trusted, and people are elected because of, not in spite of, their lack of institutional experience or specific knowledge.

Social media also plays a large role in the supposed empowerment of visitors, disrupting entrenched hierarchies (much as it did with the presidential election). “We encourage people to document it,” Refinery29’s co-founder Piera Gelardi told the New York Times.7 “They feel like they are the stars of the show here.” Traditional museums have picked up on this as well, not only encouraging visitors to post pictures online with suggested hashtags (like LACMA’s #lacmaplusyou campaign, which encourages visitors to post photos of themselves while at the museum), but also by building exhibitions for maximum Instagrammability.

These new forms of exhibition- making threaten the hegemony of the traditional art museum, which in turn is coming up with its own forms of spectacle. Within hours of going on sale last fall, 50,000 tickets to Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at The Broad sold out at $25 a piece, hearkening back to the blockbusters of 40 years ago, when people lined up at dawn to get tickets to view the treasures of King Tut’s tomb. Although entrances were timed, visitors waited in lines between each of the dozen or so mirrored enclosures, before having just 30 seconds to themselves inside. Judging from the flood of quite similar images that visitors posted online, most of that time was spent posing and taking selfies.

Instagram selfie by @cherylvu in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, (1965/2017) at The Broad.

Ironically, one of Kusama’s guiding principles was self-obliteration, which followed from a frightening childhood experience of feeling like she was “reduced to nothingness.” In her reclaiming of this self-obliteration, “being overwhelmed is a celebratory choice, not a feverish ordeal.”8 The act of taking a reflected self-portrait in these spaces, however, accomplishes just the opposite. It declares, “I was here,” again placing the visitor at the center of her own narrative, favoring static image over immersive, temporal experience.

Still, should we decry the fact that thousands of people simply used Kusama’s work as the background for their Instagram stories? Or rather celebrate that The Broad was able to introduce a wide audience to the work of this octogenarian female artist, who had been overlooked for decades? And does it matter if the general public doesn’t get her art in the way that curators and experts think they should? Is it not patronizing to assume that visitors cannot Instagram works of art and appreciate a deeper meaning?

Even though this trend towards the spectacular may strike some as counter to the museum’s pedagogical and civic role, its emergence signals a problem with the status quo. After a century of steady growth in museum attendance, those figures have been on the decline recently.9 Museums have been forced to rethink their relationship with and obligation to the public.

“Traditionally, we have not been speaking to our core constituency,” Christopher Bedford, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, told the Baltimore Sun recently.10 “You can’t expect a population who hasn’t seen your institution as relevant to come to your museum. You have to make an effort to break down your own walls.”

So while the spectacle may be a response to the disconnect between the museum and its public, it is not the only option. Take for example Atlanta’s High Museum, which has tripled their non-white audience over the past two years.11 Rather than pandering to visitors with empty cultural calories, they responded to the needs of the city’s residents, only half of whom are white, by increasing the number of exhibitions featuring artists of color. They also invested in diversity behind the scenes, participating in a Mellon Foundation program that provides curatorial fellowships for historically under-represented groups. How can audiences find a museum relevant if they don’t see themselves reflected on the walls and in museum positions?

The debate over free admission can also provide some answers. Mounting exhibitions costs money, especially the blockbusters that attract large crowds, but admission revenue generally accounts for a small percentage of a museum’s budget—as low as 5% by some tallies. Opening doors free of charge may play a larger role in attracting an audience than ashy, expensive exhibitions.

“Museums speak of wanting to attract larger, more democratic audiences,” wrote Roberta Smith a decade ago in The New York Times.12 “They cannot even begin to know this audience, much less accommodate it, until they lower the barriers, at least to their permanent collections.” She noted that the Baltimore Museum tripled the number of non-white visitors during their free hours.

In 1793 during the height of the French Revolution, the Louvre was turned into a public museum, exactly one year after the overthrow of the King. Now the world’s largest art museum, the building originally began as a fortress, and then became a royal residence, a symbol of the very inequality the Revolution was attempting to overthrow. In essence, the people had reclaimed their cultural heritage from the Monarchy, and now, over two centuries later, we’re still deciding what that should look like. Will it be the cake that Marie Antoinette cynically offered (or ice cream?), or the bread that the people so desperately needed?

Gabrielle Union, Refinery29 Global Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder Christene Barberich, and Yara Shahidi attend Refinery29 29Rooms Los Angeles: Turn It Into Art Opening Night Party at ROW DTLA on December 6, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Instagram selfie by @tkmee_ in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, (1965/2017) at The Broad.

Guests interact with Adidas “Here to Create” installation at Refinery29 29Rooms Los Angeles: Turn It Into Art Opening Night Party at ROW DTLA on December 6, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Originally published in Carla issue 11.

 

  1.  John Gallagher, “The most curious man in the world,” The Irish Times, August 26, 2017, https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/the-most-curious-man-in-the-world 1.3194402.
  2.  Bob Mondello, “A History Of Museums, ‘The Memory Of Mankind’,” NPR, November 24, 2008, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story. php?storyId=97377145
  3.   Anna Weiner, “The Millennial Walt Disney Wants to Turn Empty Stores Into Instagram Playgrounds,” New York Magazine, October 04, 2017, http://nymag. com/selectall/2017/10/museum-of-ice-cream-maryellis-bunn.html.
  4.  Eleanor Gibson, “Miami’s Museum of Ice Cream ned for causing ocean pollution with sprinkle pool,” Dezeen, January 12, 2018, https://www.dezeen. com/2018/01/11/miami-beach-museum-of-ice-cream-miami-plastic-pollution-fine-sprinkle-pool/.
  5.  Ben Davis, “George R. R. Martin’s Santa Fe Art Space Is an Odd Force,” Artnet News, June 28, 2017, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/george-r-r-martin-backed-art-collective-556880.
  6.   Ben Davis, “State of the Culture, Part I: Museums, Experiences, and the Year of Big Fun Art,” Artnet News, January 2, 2018, https://news.artnet.com/ opinion/state-of-the-culture-part-i-1184315.
  7.   Melena Ryzik, “29Rooms Is a Creative Playhouse for the Instagram Set,” The New York Times, September 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes. com/2017/09/06/arts/design/29rooms-is-a-creative-playhouse-for-the-instagram-set.html.
  8.   Rachel Taylor, “Kusama and Self obliteration,” Tate, April 3, 2012, http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/blogs/kusama-and-self-obliteration.
  9.  Patricia Cohen, “A New Survey Finds a Drop in Arts Attendance,” The New York Times, September 25, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/26/arts/ a-new-survey-finds-a-drop-in-arts-attendance.html.
  10.  Mary Carole McCauley, “In Baltimore and nationwide, art museums fight sharp declines in attendance,” Baltimore Sun, January 22, 2018, http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/arts/ bs-fe-museum-attendance-20171002-story.html.
  11.   Julia Halperin, “How the High Museum in Atlanta Tripled Its Nonwhite Audience in Two Years,” Artnet News, December 24, 2017, https://news. artnet.com/art-world/high-museum atlanta-tripled-nonwhite-audience-two-years-1187954.
  12.  Roberta Smith, “Should Art Museums Always Be Free? There’s Room for Debate,” The New York Times, July 21, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/22/arts/design/22admi.html.