Pacific Grim

A little wine, cheese and oeuvre with your economic immolation and global conflagration? Welcome to Art Month, Los Angeles style.

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Los Angeles declares the not-so-grand-opening of 2009 to be ‘Art Month,’ promising the designation will “bring the local art community together, as well as international acclaim to Los Angeles as the new center of art for the Pacific Rim.”

Sure, why not?

In Greece, the cradle of Western Civilization is on the brink as mobs of nihilistic street thugs bring a democracy to the edge of chaos. In Africa, it is now Mugabe’s love in the time of Cholera. In Waziristan, spring time for Bin Laden will bloom again soon. And across the border in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, the narco cartels are opening the New Year by hanging human heads like so many disco balls between shots of Porfidio 100-percent blue agave Tequila and drags on the primo.

Indeed, the world as we knew it even last summer has ended with all the jarring suddenness of The Sopranos. But here in Los Angeles, come hell or global warming high waters, the show must go on. That’s just how we roll. Pompei style.

The party really gets started officially late into the art month, kicking off with a patron reception for the Los Angeles Art Show on January 21 at the Convention Center, an affair catered to those benefactors swinging in the $500 to $50,000 brackets. A gala is set for a little later in the opening evening, with admission at the door a cool $250. The show, which is expected to draw 50,000 people, is scheduled to run through Jan. 25. (Details at www.LAArtShow.com)

Like any decent marketing ploy to bring warm bodies and fat wallets into city hotels, eateries and whatever else passes as an entertainment attraction these days, LA’s Art Month features the perquisite stab at altruistic side shows, including this year’s Inner-City Arts Children Activities Room, which promises to “offer children the opportunity to communicate their feelings and ideas via the universal language of art.”

If any significant number of the Xbox-dimmed minds of the kids these days indeed manage to muster enough cognition to artistically express conceptualizations of their “feelings” and “ideas,” then the LA Art Show will be an absolute triumph; and the aristocrats who fund and attend it can raise their glasses to themselves, again.

But if there is a real story lurking in the background of any of this marketing scheme—besides the surreal Berlin Fuhrer bunker-like juxtaposition of high art appreciation amid an unfolding national catastrophe—it is the dirge that is wafting louder each day for MOCA, a downtown treasure now in the final stages of its death watch.

Perhaps a last-minute injection of some serious cash by a philanthropist may yet pull one of the nation’s preeminent contemporary art museums off the terminally ill list. But even if that happens, one has to wonder if another lease on life will turn its fortunes around, or merely temporarily spare the city a loss that’s coming either way.

And maybe that’s the question Los Angeles Art Month really raises, however inadvertently. Does this city have enough patrons at all educational, income and cultural sophistication levels to really sustain the depth and breadth of a civic art world on par with Paris or New York?

An honest appraisal may conclude that significant art appreciation by the masses in Los Angeles seems to have gone the way of the sweeping urban murals that for decades had brightened the tangled, hardened arteries of the 101, 110 and 10 Freeways downtown; but in recent years have rotted away amid the onslaught of mindless vandalism in the vacuum of civic indifference.

Apparently no one in City Hall thought saving those murals would bring in a buck. And the people didn’t seem to mind.

Maybe that should tell us all something.

This article was first published in Artillery. 

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