Old dog, not-so-new tricks


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Wednesday’s Washington Post reports that L.A. artist Doug Aitken has been commissioned to design a new museum shop for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The bookstore is expected to cost between $500,000 and $750,000 and will be paid for largely from the Hirshhorn’s acquisition budget.
Already more than one Twitterer is asking, ‘On what planet is the re-design of a museum bookstore an ‘acquisition,’ funded through the acquisition budget?!’

Answer: planet Earth.

More specifically: Yonkers, N.Y., circa 1979. (Insert ‘planet Earth’ joke here.)

The precedent is unmentioned in the Washington Post story, but that’s the year the little Hudson River Museum commissioned artist Red Grooms to design its bookstore as a collection purchase. The project was even partly paid for with an acquisitions grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Who came up with the Yonkers idea? Former Hudson River Museum director (and former Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles director) Richard Koshalek. Today, Koshalek is director of, yes, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

The scheme was cheeky 30 years ago, back when contemporary art was a hard sell for most museums and facilities fundraising was a stretch. Today? Not so much.

-- Christopher Knight
Follow Times art critic Christopher Knight on Twitter: @KnightLAT