First of all, a belated Happy New Year to you, my friends. May I ask what is on your list of New Years' resolutions? Oh, never mind your waistline. What is next on your list? As for me, I hope to see a few very interesting out-of-town exhibitions before they close in the coming weeks. Here's my list: going to Santa Barbara Museum of Art to see the exhibition Delacroix and the Matter of Finish before it closes on January 26; then, driving to Palm Springs Art Museum to see Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966, which closes on February 16; and, with angels on my side, I hope to make it to de Young Museum in San Francisco to catch David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition as it closes on January 20.
And speaking of Angels, have you been following the cultural revelations coming out of the Vatican? It seems that there isn't a week that passes by without Pope Francis making the news. A few weeks ago, he declared that his favorite composer is none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Good for you Pope Francis!
Then, he raised the bar even higher by saying that his favorite movie is Fellini's Nights of Cabiria (1957) with the incomparable Giulietta Masina as a streetwalker with a heart of gold.
And if that is not enough to keep our collective eyebrows raised, Pope Francis revealed that among his favorite artists is Marc Chagall. Boy, I would kill for the chance to ask the Pope which of Chagall's paintings is his favorite.
But, for me, all of the above pales in comparison to his choice of favorite writer -none other than the great 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. So naturally, my next question for the Pope would be: which novel is his favorite? The Idiot? Crime and Punishment? Or, let me think, maybe The Brothers Karamazov? After all, the monk Alyosha, one of the brothers, utters his famous pronouncement that the world is not worth saving if the price to pay is a tear of an innocent child. Hmm... How about that, my friends?
All that makes me realize that an entire half-century has passed since the Camelot era, when White House occupants were not afraid to demonstrate their love and knowledge for high culture. Jackie arranged for Mona Lisa to appear at the National Gallery, and John shook hands with great cellist, Pablo Casals, during his performance at the White House. Those were the days...
Back to the present: this morning brought great news from the much-beleaguered LA Museum of Contemporary Art. Museum trustees announced that they finally met their lofty goal of raising $100,000,000 for a museum endowment, thus securing the museum's survival. Even a few weeks ago, there were rumors and speculations that this goal was out of their reach. So, hats off to all the dedicated art lovers who contributed to this last ditch effort. MOCA is a great museum, with an amazing art collection and a strong international reputation. What it needs now is a charismatic, visionary director at its helm. Ideally, it should be someone who loves LA and knows the city from the inside out. Some time ago, I asked a well-respected director of one of LA's art museums: "How many years did it take you to grasp the essence of this one-of-a-kind city and to raise your museum's profile to such high standards?" And the answer was: a full three or four years.
In my opinion, MOCA cannot afford the luxury of having yet another ambitious newcomer who will have to spend years learning the ropes of such a complicated and difficult-to-grasp city as our City of Angels.
Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.