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Letters to the Editor: The new LACMA’s disturbing message about the future of art museums

A banner outside the L.A. County Museum of Art shows a rendering of the new building.
A vision of the new Peter Zumthor-designed LACMA, outside the museum’s demolition zone.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The question posed in “Does LACMA’s redesign deserve this much carping?,” Tom Christie’s apologia for the design debacle at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is irrelevant and ingenuous.

The redesign conjured up by architect Peter Zumthor and museum director Michael Govan is just the physical manifestation of a pernicious, poorly conceived idea — that art museums are essentially showplaces.

Instead, what they truly are, and should be, are the repositories of the creative arts of humanity. As such, the world’s great art museums — the Louvre in Paris and New York’s Metropolitan, to name a few — offer not just a “show,” but also a place of permanence and protection for artworks. Their architecture enables and often enhances this role, but does not determine it.

The Zumthor redesign calls for more than “carping,” it demands an examination of what the purpose of a municipal, publicly funded art museum should be, and whether the citizens of Los Angeles have any voice in that purpose.

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Diane C. Hines, Malibu

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To the editor: I remember when the Getty Museum was being planned. I lived nearby and the community surrounding the designated site went crazy. The museum was going to make their neighborhood ugly.

A few concessions were made, the museum was built, and it proceeded to garner universally rave reviews.

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Since art museums contain, well, art, shouldn’t the buildings themselves reflect the creative imagination of the architect? Along with their knowledge of structure, function and aesthetics, the architect’s design should arouse in us a sense of seeing and entering a new kind of space.

Picture the first time you walked into Walt Disney Concert Hall or rode the escalator at the Broad Museum. Both those buildings had their doubters and critics, but now they enjoy wide acclaim.

I’m excited about seeing LACMA’s stellar collection reorganized into a thematic context. Let’s give Govan and Zumthor the chance to impress us — and maybe even enchant us.

Laura Owen, Pacific Palisades

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To the editor: It is hard to imagine the French or the Italians deciding one day that the Louvre is simply too old and outdated or that the Uffizi is just not keeping up with the times, and so it is time to demolish them and build something new.

Americans see the world differently. For better or for worse, history does not weigh on us as it does the Old World. We feel free of it, and free to squander it.

Karl Lisovsky, Venice

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To the editor: Losing 10,000 square feet of gallery space is an outrage for what should be an encyclopedic museum. To have so many important works in storage is abhorrent.

Janet Cupples, Tarzana


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