Big birthdays are always a big deal, but it is hard to imagine having a better 50th than LACMA did this week. To celebrate, a new show is now on view, 50 for 50: Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA’s Anniversary. Not only will you see treasures from David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg, but you’ll discover an elegant collection of Ethiopian crosses, whimsical sketches by James McNeil Whistler, and a smattering of colorful American folk art. All the pieces were given or promised in honor of the 50th, and the result is a crazy quilt of art — old and new, formal and folk — all top notch and so thoughtfully arranged that it’s hard not to fall in love.
We had been eager to see spectacular From Spaniard and Morisca, Albino Girl by Miguel Cabrera, since reading the story about how the canvas that had been lost to history until recently. (Here is that intriguing story from the LA Times). It did not disappoint.
And a small room with six pieces from A. Jerrold Perenchio’s promised bequest of 50 works was worth the trip across town – a suite of Impressionist paintings by masters we all love (Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vuillard) that will return to the collector’s home after this show ends on September 13, 2015. This stunning sculpture – Study for The Dance by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux – protects the Perenchio gifts with fierce grace.
It’s pretty hard not to smile when you come across an enormous surfboard inscribed body with “Duke” – surf king Kahanamoku’s first board – leaning fetchingly against the wall nearby a pristine set of early California travel posters.
Go and have fun, but don’t forget to admire DeWain Valentine’s Red Concave Circle, which just begs to be photographed. And take a few moments to enjoy David Hockney’s video installation, which seems to express the happy mood of the institution on its big anniversary.