Dissatisfied English bulldog Frank Gehry has backed out of an architecture exhibition in Los Angeles that prominently featured his work. The show, "A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California," is supposed to open June 2 at Gehry's own Geffen Contemporary gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. But without the participation of its star player, the show might not go on.
As we noted in our preview, the exhibition focuses on the past 25 years of rule-bending architecture in LA. Guest curator Christopher Mount gathered work by Gehry, Thom Mayne, Barbara Bestor, Michael Maltzan, and Lorcan O'Herlihy, as well as younger practices, to celebrate LA's war on rectilinearity and its architects' innovation in all that curves, folds, and protrudes. Without Gehry's participation, Mount must scramble to revamp the exhibition and, potentially, face cancelation or a change of venue.
Alan-Voo House, by Neil M. Denari Architects (Los Angeles, 2007), one of the projects in "A New Sculpturalism." Photo courtesy of Benny Chan
According to the Los Angeles Times, the show's curatorial framework may have been part of the problem. Christopher Hawthorne reports that Mount's approach alienated some of his subjects, Gehry chief among them. "I didn't feel comfortable in it," Gehry told the LAT. "It didn't seem to be a scholarly, well-organized show."
The starchitect pulled out of "A New Sculpturalism" last month over the objections of Mount, MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch, and officials at the Getty. (The Getty Foundation supported the exhibition, which is part of its Pacific Standard Time Presents series, with a $445,000 grant.)
"I'm subject to misunderstanding about the seriousness of my work," Gehry explained to the LAT. "People assume I am just crumpling paper and so forth. This was feeling a bit that way, a trivialization."
Mount's picks included buildings that reveal the influence of LA architecture around the world, including Gehry's Nationale-Nederlanden Building in Prague from 1996. Image courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP
For his part, Mount maintains that all the brouhaha is over financial issues, not intellectual ones.
He told Hawthorne, "What I would like to see is a community uprising, so to speak, where these 34 firms stand up and say, 'You can't cancel a show that's four weeks away.'" Maybe so, but as any working architect knows, you can cancel a building pretty much anytime. Welcome to the field!