Monday, March 26, 2007

Putting L.A. On The Cultural Map

"Two decades after Los Angeles emerged as the nation’s second art capital, the city is reaping the benefits of a migration of artists, galleries, dealers and curators," writes Edawrd Wyatt in the NYT:
"In the process new centers of gravity have emerged for contemporary art and artists [...] A new generation of curators have been lured to the major museums here [...] In architecture Los Angeles has been an incubator not just for Mr. Gehry but for the rising star Thom Mayne, and high-profile commissions. [...] Yet the city is still struggling to attract cultural tourists." Why? Because of perception:

"Whereas 40 percent of visitors to New York and London take part in some sort of cultural activity -- a museum visit, a theatrical performance or the like -- and 85 percent of visitors to Paris do so, only about 1 in 10 tourists to Los Angeles visit a cultural site."

What does cultural tourism mean anyway? Can it be reduced to a museum visit or a theatrical performance? Los Angeles offers plenty of culture of its own. Yet, the deficit between perception and reality has prompted local leaders to embark on a campaign to put the city on the cultural map. Not easy, given the shortage of cash and the egos involved -- including those of that other culture: Hollywood, as Wyatt explains. Not need to worry though:

"If it has been hard to attract investment and government support for cultural activities, the city’s vibrant visual arts scene might be seen as its own best advertisement [...] And naturally some artists adopt Los Angeles precisely because it is not New York."

Welcome to Los Angeles: the land of the free.
illustration Lou Beach/NYT