Marking a significant step in the advancement of an expansion plan for the Los Angeles Museum County of Art, the Board of Supervisors for L.A. County voted unanimously in favor of the institution’s proposed new building, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.
The vote was to decide whether the county would give the museum $117.5 million in funds toward a $650-million project to create a new building that would span Wilshire Boulevard, one of the city’s major transportation arteries.
Discussion during dialogue prior to the vote issued by the county’s five supervisors took up the subject of increased access to museum’s collection. Michael Govan, LACMA’s director, said the new plan would serve to develop LACMA as “a sharing institution,” pointing to its partnerships with the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College and the Charles White Elementary School. Govan called the plan the “right size for LACMA” and said that Zumthor’s design “anticipates the future of art museums.”
Among the more than 20 stakeholders invited to speak in support for LACMA were actors Brad Pitt and Diane Keaton, artists Diana Thater and Ian White, architect Frank Escher, Vincent Price Museum director Pilar Tompkins Rivas, Academy Museum director Kerry Brougher, and Naima J. Keith, LACMA’s recently appointed vice president for education and public programs.
Opponents of the plan—with a tenor and tone that has grown increasingly heated in recent weeks—have taken issue with what they have characterized as a shortage of exhibition space and a lack of transparency to see full plans or models for the building in advance.
The vote on Tuesday followed the release of an environmental impact report late last month. That report presented modifications to Zumthor’s original design, including changing the exterior color to from black to beige as well as reducing total exhibition space by some 53,000 square feet, about 33 percent, according to an analysis in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
The amended design ignited debate within the pages of the Los Angeles Times as well as in numerous other publications. Reporter Carolina A. Miranda compared the new design to “a small-city airport terminal.” A few days later, Christopher Knight, the Times’s art critic, published his own lament. All the while, the museum had not released an official statement on the matter until Govan granted the L.A. Times an interview. The following day he also published an op-ed to generate support for the vote. Knight struck back in his own piece, under the headline “Dear L.A. County: Reject the LACMA redesign plan and go back to the drawing board.”