Jim Carrey and LACMA director Michael Govan. Photo Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA.

 

April 18, 2015 @ Los Angeles County Museum of Art

It's hard to imagine the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) celebrating a semicentennial with anything but a swanky black-tie gala on the clement evening of Apr. 18. The museum, which in the past few decades has taken on an air of sophistication, hosted elite guests from the film industry and art world who mingled around Richard Serra sculptures in the BCAM building and sipped Krug champagne.

Outside, on a red carpet, Paul Schimmel schmoozed a group of collectors curious about the Sept. opening of his new gallery Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel. "Oh, Paul, you're such an art dealer now," a man ribbed. Nearby, a clique of powerful curators, artists and a collector—Hans Ulrich Obrist, Simon Castets, Bettina Korek, Alex Israel, Beth DeWoody and Doug Aitken—kissed cheeks and shook hands with anyone in their orbit.

Back inside, Ed Ruscha, who painted a burning effigy of the museum titled Los Angeles County Museum on Fire in 1965, the same year the William Pereira-designed building opened, huddled in a corner with Charles Gaines. Gaines recalled his first visit LACMA visit to attend the famed 1971 "Art & Technology Program" exhibition. "It was the first time big companies funded artists like that," he said of the initiative. LACMA paired artists like Claes Oldenburg and Richard Serra up with "patron sponsors" like Disney and Kaiser Industries.

At around 7:30 p.m., LACMA director Michael Govan stood in front of the Resnick Building and announced the opening of the "50 for 50: Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA's Anniversary" exhibition, as the giant curtain that had been cloaking the doorway dropped dramatically. Gallerist Shaun Regen, United Talent Agency's brand new arts division head Joshua Roth and Naomi Watts all filed in, with more than 700 other guests.

"That's a good one," Jim Carrey said, pointing at this reporter with both fingers after catching me sneaking a snapshot of him through DeWain Valentine's translucent Red Concave Circle (1970). Carrey admitted he collected art, but was much more excited to talk about his painting practice. "I'm making sculptures now too," he said.

The Valentine piece, donated to LACMA by Bank of America, was one of 50 new gifts from private donors and corporations bolstering the museum's historically uneven collection. Other gifts of contemporary art included two David Hockneys and an Yves Klein photograph. Older works included a series of Whistler etching and long-lost 18th century painting by the Mexican artist Miguel Cabrera.

Several pieces from the collection of former Univision head Jerry Perenchio were also on view, part of the $500 million art gift he's earmarked for the museum on the condition that they finish the plan to raze several buildings and replace them with a new structure by Swiss starchitect Peter Zumthor.

In all, the museum received about $200 million in art gifts beyond the Perenchio Collection, on top of the $5 million the gala took in.