Photos by Shelley Leopold
In the next month or so, Los Angeles will lose perhaps it greatest (sanctioned)
ode to public art: LACMA’s parking garage, which is to be torn down to make
room for the Eli Broad collection’s new home. If you’ve never paid close attention
— or the money to park inside — now’s the time to check out the celebration
of street art it has become since October 2000, when husband and wife team Barry
McGee and Margaret Kilgallen were commissioned to “bomb” the second floor of
the structure in commemoration of the show “Made in California.”
Over the last five years, Kilgallen’s smoking, trudging, scowling women and
McGee’s signature sad-sack faces and meticulously drawn messages have inspired
uncoerced homages from several locally and internationally known artists: N.Y.-based
graffiti trio FAILE’s collage stencils; Spanish tagger PEZ’s bubbly alien figures,
and Obey Giant guru Shepard Fairey’s looming wheat-paste policeman.
Others have left their marks, and their marks have left the building, thanks
apparently to a new kind of art thief: a panel by Meta disappeared, and rumor
has it that a mosaic by the French phenom Space Invader was chipped away.
And now the real chipping begins. Although LACMA officials say that all of the
garage art has been photographed for the archives, no plans have been made to
preserve any part of the actual structure.
On November 27, to “acknowledge change at the museum,” the top level of the
parking structure will be opened to the public for a “chalk-in” celebration,
from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. People will be encouraged to contribute chalk drawings
inspired by wall-projections of pieces from the museum’s collection. A DJ will
add mood music. It’s free.
Most graffiti fans and the artists themselves will likely argue that the beauty
of street art is in its impermanence; that the destruction of the art left to
LACMA’s garage is a fitting end. But one can only hope that the energy and spirit
used to create that art can live on in the new Eli Broad building — or on it.