LACMA considers train sculpture

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is studying the feasibility of erecting a huge sculpture by Jeff Koons that would dangle a 70-foot fabricated train from the top of a 161-foot-tall crane on its Wilshire Boulevard campus.

The yet-to-be-created work, which would be visible for miles, would turn its wheels, whistle and belch steam three times a day.

Director Michael Govan, in conversation with Koons at a Thursday evening museum event, said LACMA had received a grant from the Annenberg Foundation to explore placing the work, to be called “Train,” on its grounds after the museum’s current remodel is finished.

In an interview afterward, Govan said the grant, awarded in summer 2006, was for more than $1 million.

Should the project go forward, he noted, it would take years and wouldn’t be ready at the opening of LACMA’s $60-million Broad Contemporary Art Museum, tentatively scheduled for February 2008.


A museum spokeswoman said the sculpture would be paid for by LACMA fundraising.

Koons said that placing the artwork at the center of the LACMA campus would create a sort of “town square for L.A.,” with the train essentially serving the purpose of a small-town clock tower. He envisions the train going through its “performance” at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Govan said he hoped the piece would become a new icon for the city, much like the Hollywood sign: “I have a fantasy that when kids see it they will drag their parents to the museum -- not just literally but that it inspires that kind of curiosity.”

He said the train whistle would create “no more noise than traffic.”

Govan and Koons spoke as part of the museum’s “Director’s Series” of talks about art.

Also scheduled are discussions with Robert Irwin on March 8, and Diana Thater on April 12. For more information, go to