In the coming weeks, galleries will crumble, ceilings implode, floors collapse. As LACMA’s own Twitter account proves, the teardown has evoked a cri de coeur — the image of the wreckage, amid so much recent human suffering, suddenly awakening a profound melancholy for a world being left behind.
As the buildings vanish, a kind of amnesia will likely set in. We will begin to forget the LACMA we’ve known. Which is precisely what Govan and the board of trustees are depending on. There is no better way to create the cultural space for the idea of the new museum, no matter how undesirable, than to wipe out the existence of the old, erasure being the prerequisite to replacement.
This is especially necessary for LAMCA because from the moment the museum unveiled the latest version of its new design — a flat-top boomerang bridging Wilshire Boulevard — critics have piled on, and citizen opposition has grown to chorus level. The proposed museum has been skewered as a costly aesthetic dud; it will add to a debt burden at the museum, calculated by this newspaper, that is already unusually high. It also shrinks rather than expands LACMA’s exhibition space, and the galleries, we’re told, will abandon the usual permanent display that defines an encyclopedic museum. In response, the Ahmanson Foundation, LACMA’s crucial supporter for 60 years, has turned off the spigot of donations.