All eyes will be on Los Angeles and the recipients of those golden statuettes at the Oscars at the end of the month while, in the same week, the gallery which Wallpaper magazine has declared to be the best new gallery in its 2016 Design Awards will open at 5900 Wiltshire Boulevard across the road from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Sprüth Magers, established in 1998 by Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers, is adding to Berlin and London with a new gallery located in an existing 1970’s building in L.A. which has been remodelled by Andreas Lechthaler and Botho von Senger and Etterlin to meet the needs of a gallery while enabling the character of the original architecture to be seen, and interior designs by Ingrid von Werz including furniture by California-based female designers
Jonathan Griffin in the Financial Times provides a good overview of the history behind the new gallery, from the coincidence that it was the first building that Philimene Magers visited in LA in 1991, when it was still a café, to the opportunities created by other galleries closing leaving artists potentially unrepresented that has resulted in their new gallery being located in L.A. rather than the more traditional New York, plus several of the artists they represent such as Ed Rusha and John Baldessari, whose work will open their inaugural exhibition, are based in California. In this they are following on from Hauser and Wirth who opened a new gallery in an old flour mill in downtown L.A. in 2015.
The new gallery for Sprüth Magers is part of the 5900 Wiltshire Boulevard complex which includes what is currently the tallest building in the Miracle Mile, opened in 1971 to designs by Gin Wong of William L Pereira & Associates and will now provide a free-standing art pavilion with double height windows on three sides surrounded by reflective pool, fountains and palm trees. The opening exhibition will show the work of the conceptual and playful Californian artist John Baldessari who combines words and images in challenging and amusing combinations, having declared in the 60’s that “a word could be an image or an image could be a word, they could be interchangeable” and in the 70’s that “I will not make any more boring Art”.
Calvin Tomkins in the New Yorker in 2010 provided a good description of John Baldessari’s work at the time of his exhibitions at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, across the road from where he will be exhibiting next week, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
In London, Sprüth Magers’s gallery in Grafton Street, Mayfair, has a very different character, having been originally built around 1772 as part of a terrace of houses designed by Sir Robert Taylor, though subsequently altered. Behind a traditional shopfront are two relatively plain rooms with rough timber floors, almost warehouse in character, not what you would expect in sophisticated Mayfair.
Here, Edward and Nancy Keinholz show another side of Los Angeles – the dark underbelly of the city away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with racism, violence, poverty, prostitution and mental illness – with works from the Betty and Monte Factor Family Collection that also reflects on the creative relationship between the artists and these long-term collectors of their work.
Each work tells a story, perhaps best illustrated by the “Drawing for Five Car Stud” (1969-72). High on the wall is a car registration plate for “Brotherhood 71″. Is it the registration of the car itself or one of those vehicles, the shadows of which can be seen through the car window. The door is firmly locked but liquid has been pouring down the inside of the car door – is it water, liquor, perhaps even the remnants of blood? Through the window the white lights of four cars and a pick-up truck pick out an eerie scene of a black man being held down on the ground while the other men try to castrate him as a punishment for drinking in the company of a white woman who is hiding, shameful, vomiting, in one of the cars.
Later in the year a larger exhibition of Edward and Nancy Kienholz’s work will be held at Sprüth Magers in Berlin which will show more of these graphic representations of L.A. With their new gallery, Sprüth Magers will be able to continue to bring American artists to Europe but now also take European artists to L.A.
(Photographs of LA gallery and John Baldessari copyright)