L.A.'s newest private museum, the Marciano Art Foundation, houses the art collection of the Marciano brothers, founders of the GUESS? fashion label. In addition to seminal works of contemporary art by the likes of Mike Kelley, Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons, the Marciano offers a glimpse into the secret society of Freemasonry, which few of the uninitiated ever get to see. Tracing its origins back several centuries to European stonemason guilds, Freemasonry consists of fraternal orders whose ranks include captains of industry, almost a third of U.S. presidents and Hollywood bigwigs Walt Disney and Cecil B. DeMille, among others. The museum is housed in the former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, a gleaming marble and travertine citadel designed by Millard Sheets in 1961, which has been thoughtfully repurposed by architect Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY, retaining much of the original structure's character. Lining the building's Wilshire Boulevard façade, massive sculptures by Albert Stewart depict important figures from Masonic cosmology, such as Imhotep, architect of the Egyptian step pyramids, and Zerubbabel, the Biblical builder of the Second Temple. Masonic symbols such as the square and compass are featured throughout, central to the Masons' conception of themselves as builders. In their lodges and temples, Masons would enact theatrical, costumed rituals utilizing hand-painted backdrops, several of which have been incorporated by artist Jim Shaw into his stunning solo exhibition, The Wig Museum (through Jan. 13), on the main level. Upstairs, the Relic Room houses even more wonders: robes, hats, books, membership logs and other Masonic ephemera, opening a window onto a secretive, in large part bygone world.
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