Life as a museum guard: Hylan Booker of LACMA


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We’ve been talking with guards at the museums to get a taste of what they see and hear. First up were our talks with guards at MOCA and the Getty. Here we chat with Hylan Booker, guard-supervisor at LACMA.

Booker, 72, has been at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for three and a half years. He’s a retired women’s clothing designer and producer, part-time painter and longtime LACMA member.


Favorite artwork: “Man and Woman,” Pablo Picasso, 1969. As an older man himself, Booker says he can relate to this pair of figures Picasso painted in his late 80s.

Booker believes it makes a less definitive, less “macho” statement than Picasso’s earlier works. “It’s an odd painting … You can see all that sort of determinism falling apart and he’s just doing it from a kind of visceral place,” he says. At such an advanced age, Booker adds: “You don’t care about the history of what you are doing anymore — although with him, he always thought he was the greatest thing since Swiss cheese.”

Why LACMA: “I had been in the Air Force, I had been an air policeman, so I decided I would become a guard. I live pretty close, and so I was seeing the Broad [Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA] when it was opening [2008], when they had the big party and limousines around the block … it was almost like you’d have to go back to the Medicis to see how grand the opening was … I said: ‘Yes, this is the place I want to be.’”

Don’t pet the bunny: For the opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, art patron Eli Broad had loaned Jeff Koons’ 1986 “Rabbit,” a shiny, stainless steel work that appears to be a giant balloon sculpture. “You could say it was metal, but they didn’t believe it, they had to touch it. And every fingerprint is serious when you are dealing with Mr. [Koons’] work. Guarding that was a real nightmare.”

On art: “When you visit a museum, you come for a few hours, but when you are here eight hours a day, for three and a half years, your whole world expands … to be here, and indulge myself, it’s almost disgusting, like if you worked in an ice cream parlor and ate ice cream every day. It just means you get more of what you love, really.” RELATED

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Museum security guards: Lots of art and a little eavesdropping

-- Diane Haithman

Hylan Booker in front of Picasso’s ‘Man and Woman’ at LACMA. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez.