Monday, November 28, 2005

An Open Letter to Mayor Villaraigosa: Please Save Our LACMA Murals

Barry McGee
(detail of a mural currently in the LACMA garage)

Mayor Villaraigosa,

I want to thank you for the bold steps that you have taken to create a Los Angeles for the 21st Century. Your vision and ideals are inspiring.

Not long ago you attended the opening of Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi's film: "A Day Without a Mexican". Your commitment to challenging (and humorous) art is evident.

Last May - Sergio Arau, Yareli Arizmendi, and the film's cinematographer Alan Caudillo - attended the opening of my exhibition at the LACMA Art Rental and Sales Gallery. It was an evening of spirit, camaraderie and possibility. We pledged our support to you in the upcoming election and knew that if the time came for the art community to reach out for your help that you would listen. That time has come sooner than we thought.

It has been reported that in a few days, on December 1st, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is slated to demolish its parking garage to make way for a new building to display contemporary art.

Tyler Green explains in his op-ed piece, entitled LACMA's choice, in today's Los Angeles Times: "The problem isn't that LACMA is demolishing a garage so that it can add gallery space, the problem is that LACMA isn't saving the art it commissioned for the garage."

The paintings slated for destruction this week were created in 2000, on the occasion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's "Made in California" exhibit. The museum commissioned the artists Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen to fill the garage with their captivating, contemporary art.

Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen have become recognized as two of the United States' most prominent artists. Their work has been exhibited at and collected by the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Tyler Green adds, "The destruction of Margaret Kilgallen's work would be especially disappointing. She died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 33. Relatively few of her works still exist." After Margaret's death, Barry McGee has quietly and heroically raised their child as a single dad. It would be a shame to destroy some of Margaret Kilgallen's few remaining artworks and deprive Barry and his child of a tangible, physical connection to Margaret's life and art.

Margaret Kilgallen
(detail of a mural currently in the LACMA garage)

Like Sergio and Yareli's film, Barry and Margaret's paintings are works of deep power that also carry the humor of our daily lives. It would be a shame to lose these paintings forever.

We hope you will take the time to call the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and ask the museum to slow down the demolition to properly determine how to save at least some of Margaret Kilgallen's and Barry McGee's work in the garage.

The art community of Los Angeles looks forward to working with you in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank You

Barry McGee reinterpreting one of Margaret Kilgallen's pieces for a show at the San Jose Museum of Art 2002

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