A mind-bendingly broad spectrum of human creative output will be on display when the new Resnick Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opens to the public on October 2. The opening trio of exhibitions, together with the facility itself, should provide some intriguing contrasts.
The Resnick Exhibition Pavilion moves LACMA’s ongoing redevelopment forward in dramatic fashion. The new building was bankrolled by longtime LACMA patrons Lynda and Stewart Resnick. The pavilion was designed by famed architect Renzo Piano, whose other works include the Pompidou center in Paris and the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The pavilion is being described as the world’s largest naturally lit, open floor museum space designed and built exclusively for the display of art. The entire 45,000 square foot viewing area is on one floor, with no fixed walls. Natural daylight filters into the museum galleries through rows of slanted skylights. The vast horizontal space provides a striking venue for multiple, thematically diverse exhibitions.
Into this quintessentialy modern display space come some of the oldest and grandest works of art from the Americas: colossal Olmec heads, and other works from the Olmec civilization of southern Mexico.
Olmec: Masterworks of Ancient Mexico will be the first major review of Olmec art in the US in over 15 years, and the first ever on the West Coast. It draws on objects from the Mexican national collection plus pieces on loan from over two dozen additional museums.
The Olmecs pre-dated the rise of Mayan and Aztec civilizations, and began developing highly sophisticated works of art as early as 1500 BC. Olmec art is striking and distinctive, with some works viewed as among the most beautiful in all of ancient America.
The Olmecs are particularly known for the creation of giant stone heads. Seventeen of the monumental heads have been discovered, with the largest weighing up to 24 tons. Carved from single blocks of basalt, the massive works are thought to depict helmeted Olmec rulers. In addition to at least two of the heads, the exhibition will include over 100 objects from large, naturalistic sculptures to finely wrought jade figurines.
Paired with the Mesoamerican art show are two very different exhibitions. Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915, follows the sweeping changes in European dress fashion over two centuries, from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I. The third show, Eye for the Sensual: Selections from the Resnick Collection honors the pavilion benefactors with a display 125 European paintings, sculptures and other works from sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.
The LA Times Culture Monster critic Christopher Knight reviewed the inaugural Resnick Pavilion shows on September 23. His verdict: The Olmec exhibition is “majestic”, and the display of LACMA’s astounding collection of costumes and accessories “seems destined to be a sleeper hit.” The Resnick Collection show, on the other hand, “ranks as a serious misstep.”
LACMA is introducing the Resnick Pavilion with a free community weekend October 2 and 3. Admission to all facilities on the museum’s 20-acre campus will be free both days from 11am to 8pm.