LACMA acquires Bruce Nauman’s ‘For Beginners,’ with help from Francois Pinault

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In the museum world, it always helps to have wealthy friends who have big appetites for collecting. For the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a strong relationship with French billionaire François Pinault has helped to secure the acquisition of the much-coveted Bruce Nauman video installation ‘For Beginners.’

LACMA said Thursday that Pinault has purchased the artwork and has given half ownership of it to the museum. The somewhat unusual deal means that Pinault still retains the work, but has given LACMA a master disc of it, according to a spokeswoman for the museum.

‘We wouldn’t have been able to acquire it ourselves,’ said Miranda Carroll, the spokeswoman. She declined to disclose monetary figures of the acquisition, which was made from the Sperone Westwater gallery in New York.

‘For Beginners’ is a two-channel video with sound that depicts two pairs of hands whose digits open and close in various permutations. There was great interest in the 2010 work from art institutions around the world, but the artist wanted it to reside in an American museum, according to LACMA.


Michael Govan, the director of the museum, was instrumental in negotiating the deal with Pinault. The founder of the luxury-goods conglomerate PPR, owner of Christie’s auction house and an avid collector, Pinault has amassed one of the most impressive personal art troves in the world. Govan said in a statement that the acquisition has special significance because the artist lived in California and Los Angeles in the 1960s and ‘70s, and LACMA mounted the artist’s first retrospective in 1972.

LACMA said it plans to exhibit ‘For Beginners’ at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum this fall, most likely starting in October. Pinault said in a statement that he plans to show the work in Venice, Italy.


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-- David Ng