LACMA looking to buy Christian Marclay’s video art hit ‘The Clock,’ a virtual history of film


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Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’ -- a 24-hour video that cleverly (and some say profoundly) tells viewers the current time by splicing together thousands of film and TV clips showing various watches and clocks -- was such a hit in New York this winter that people lined up in the cold outside the Paula Cooper Gallery to see it.

Now, the Art Newspaper reports that LACMA is one of three museums trying to buy the work, issued in an edition of six.According to the paper, director Michael Govan plans to project the work on the facade of one of LACMA’s buildings, where it could presumably work like a clock tower for any passersby.


When asked about the artwork, Govan confirmed that he and Franklin Sirmans, LACMA’s head of contemporary art, have followed Marclay’s work for years, and that the department is presenting this work to donors in April during an event known as ‘Collectors Committee Weekend’ to see if funding can be raised for it.

‘Because it compiles a virtual history, though not chronologically, of film,’ Govan said, ‘it meets many criteria at once in terms of being a great artwork and a great artwork for LACMA.’

But the potential location of the piece, Govan said, is far from a done deal. Although one might expect to see it in a museum theater, he said that any plans to show it in a more unusual location would ‘require working closely with the artist, and that’s the next step after you buy it.’

According to another Art Newspaper article, LACMA will in October become the first U.S. institution to display Ed Kienholz’s intensely controversial artwork ‘Five Car Stud.’ The installation, dating from 1969 to 1972, shows ‘five white figures in grotesque rubber masks tying down and castrating a black man,’ the paper said. The museum owns Kienholz’s 1962 tableau ‘Illegal Operation,’ a graphic exploration of abortion, and his 1964 installation ‘Back Seat Dodge ’38,’ which was once called ‘pornographic’ by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

[UPDATE 4:25 pm: The Art Newspaper had cited a price for Marclay’s video of $400,000, which was mentioned in an earlier version of this post. But representatives of both LACMA and the Paula Cooper gallery, who decline to specify the price, say it is incorrect.]


Leading the eye by the ear

LACMA lands Ed Kienholz’s ‘The Illegal Operation’

-- Jori Finkel / jorifinkel