Last summer, retired Los Angeles gallerist Margo Leavin made headlines when she announced a generous $20-million gift to UCLA to help cover the cost of remodeling the university’s decrepit graduate art studios. Now UCLA faculty and alumni are banding together to help raise the balance for what is needed for construction. (The total cost for the redesign, conceived by Los Angeles architects Johnston Marklee, is estimated at $31 million.)
On June 3, the university will host a luncheon and benefit sale that will feature works by UCLA faculty and alumnae. And given UCLA’s rank as the No. 2 graduate fine art program in the country, it’s a compelling list, which includes Woman’s Building pioneer Judy Chicago, conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, painters Lari Pittman and Toba Khedoori (the latter of whom recently had a one-woman show at LACMA), installationist Rodney McMillian, photographer James Welling and groundbreaking photo collagist Robert Heinecken (who established the photography program at UCLA in the 1960s and was the subject of a retrospective at the Hammer Museum in 2014). Also providing works are notable artists who have made appearances at UCLA as adjunct professors or guest lecturers, such as Ed Ruscha.
“When you look at who has come through UCLA, it’s a pretty remarkable program,” says photographer and faculty member Catherine Opie, who is also donating work to the sale. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Opie, who last year had a two-part exhibition of her photographs at the Hammer Museum and Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, has taught at UCLA for 16 years and says the new studios can’t arrive soon enough.
“The [current] building doesn’t have proper electricity, it has no air conditioning, it barely has heat,” she says. “It’s been fantastic to watch the creativity that has taken place there — we love the charm and the funkiness of it. But it’s pretty bad in October when you’re trying to do a graduate critique and it’s 95 degrees inside.”
The proposed redesign will give the dour warehouse complex an open-air courtyard, increase usable space by 40%, add an exhibition area and an artist-in-residence studio.
Says Opie: “This would be creating a memorable footprint for a really important program.