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BOOK REVIEW:

LACMA so far : portrait of a museum in the making

Call Number: 
708.1 L8817Mu

The county and city of Los Angeles have rapidly grown into a major domestic and global region, internationaly diverse and fearlessly innovative in social, political and economic areas. All of this did not happen without bumps and mishaps, which are interesting and add to the colorful past and recent history of an area that has legends and myths surrounding it. LACMA, aka The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, represents all of that in microcosm. The idea for the present art museum began in 1913, and was to be part of the The Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art, in Exposition Park. The civic, political and social leaders who wanted to create an art museum each had ideas of their own, and not all of these individuals were altruistic in achieving the goal.  Ego created mischief, a will to power, and self-aggrandisement, all of which could be the subject of a satire. From its inception the museum did not have one individual who set down objectives, instead there were many who offered advice and even their own collections. Walter and Louise Arensberg, Norton Simon, Armand Hammer, Walter Annenberg, and Eli Broad were among those whose ideas, money and collections were offered, sometimes with resulting success and other times not. There were key periods in the museum's creation and endurance when the institution foundered and limped along, with highs and lows that continue to the present. LACMA is a well known art museum in the United States, and in its tumultuous creation has engendered other notable museums in the greater Los Angeles area. Suzanne Muchnic's meticulous research and compelling writing style bring to light an outstanding history of a major cultural institution and the community that created and maintains it.

This history of LACMA was awarded the LAPL, Bruckman Rare Book Friends Group's 2017 notable book award for the following reasons:  "A meticulously researched book which covers the history of LACMA up to the date of the book's publication.  It is very well written, readable, and therefore will appeal to a wide variety of readers: the general public, scholars, and others. It is not just a coffee table book about art and the museum built to collect and display it. In its coverage of how the museum came into existence, Muchnic provides a good deal of Los Angeles history from the past and the present, including the larger-than-life personalities of the city's social and political leaders who participated in the history of the museum and its creation. The history of LACMA is an important story of Los Angeles on its way to becoming a major world class city. As a work of non-fiction, the book has a table of contents, index and reference notes. There are color, black and white photographs throughout."

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