This past weekend, over dinners hosted by some of Los Angeles’s leading art collectors and a gala auction, members of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) collectors committee raised more than $2m for the museum’s acquisition budget and acquired ten works for its permanent collection. Since the launch of the museum’s Collectors Committee Weekend in 1986, it has raised more than $49m for the museum and enabled its acquisition of 256 works.
This weekend’s acquisitive events saw the museum add objects spanning the 11th to the 21st centuries. The oldest object joining Lacma’s collection is an architectural fragment, the capital of a column believed to belong to a fortified palace that once stood at the present site of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It joins several other artefacts from Islamic Spain in the museum’s collection.
A very different historic object of Spanish provenance entering the museum’s collection is an ornate cabinet of ebonised wood that was manufactured in Antwerp for Melchor Portocarrero y Lasso de la Vega, who served as the Viceroy of Peru at the turn of the 18th-century. While serving in Lima, he had the cabinet ornamented with Peruvian silver, literally embedding spoils of Spain’s extractive colonial activities in the Americas into the object.
The museum is also acquiring five historic textiles from Pacific islands made with barkcloth derived from the inner bark of paper mulberry trees. Among them are a kapa moe (bedcover) that had belonged to the Hawaiian Queen Ka’ahumanu (1768-1832), one of the most powerful women in the islands’ history. Other barkcloth textiles acquired come from the islands of Niue, Futuna and Samoa.
Also among the acquisitions are three works by contemporary artists from Chicago: Nick Cave, Theaster Gates and Miyoko Ito. Sea Chest (1972), a characteristically allusive abstract painting by Ito (1918-1983), features her trademark geometric forms and distinctive palette of warm reds and cool blues. Born in Berkeley, California, Ito and her husband were among the more than 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated in camps throughout the American West following US President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1942 signing of Executive Order 9066. She spent the rest of her life living in Chicago and has become the subject of much posthumous interest and attention in recent years.
The museum also acquired Cave’s powerful Soundsuit 8:46 (2022), from his famous series of intricate, wearable sculptures. Created in response to the 2020 murder of George Floyd, its title refers to the period of time police officer Derek Chauvin was initially reported to have knelt on Floyd’s neck (this was subsequently revealed to actually have been nine and a half minutes). Befitting the subject, the work features Cave’s typically bright and shining elements overlaid with black flowers. It is not only the first work by Cave to enter Lacma’s collection but also, according to the museum, his first piece acquired by any Los Angeles museum.
Lacma also added Gates’s ceramic and wood sculpture Vessel #12 (2020), which references both the traditional pottery of Tokoname, Japan, and the 19th-century Black ceramicist David Drake, whose work is featured prominently in the exhibition Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina, now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Also among the works acquired are a late-17th century still life painting by Spanish artist Bernardo Polo and Max Ernst’s ominous cityscape painting, The Entire City (1935).
“Collectors Committee is an essential source of support for Lacma’s collection, and has enabled transformative acquisitions in all the museum’s curatorial areas,” Lacma director Michael Govan said in a statement.
The museum is in the midst of an enormous and controversial $750m construction project, which will see some of its permanent collection displayed in a Peter Zumthor-designed building spanning Wilshire Boulevard. Construction of the new building is expected to be complete in late 2024.