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Broad Contemporary Art Museum Soirée

Tables at the elite soirée cost $25,000 (silver), $50,000 (gold) or $100,000 (platinum). Guests included Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger and California’s first lady Maria Shriver, as well as Tom Cruise, Christina Aguilera and a bevy of Hollywood stars. And what was the occasion? – the ostentatious debut party for the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), which houses the modern art collection of billionaire Eli Broad at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art.

Some 1,000 high-falootin’ bigwigs swarmed the grounds at LACMA on the evening of Feb. 9th, rubbing elbows with museum directors like Sir Nicholas Serota of Britain’s Tate Gallery, and a number of postmodernist art stars like Chris Burden, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst. LACMA director Michael Govan was on hand to talk about the museum’s “rebirth.”

In his evaluation of the BCAM collection, Big names, big works… big checkbook, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote:

“Mostly the exhibition just looks expensive. Really, really expensive. In deciding what to exhibit, art museums everywhere now strongly favor wealthy collectors over artists and art professionals, and slashed government spending at every level (except defense) keeps contemporary cultural institutions hostage to private interests. Ours is an era of supply-side aesthetics, trickling down on the public. BCAM’s loan-show debut is emblematic of the economic elitism humming loudly this presidential election year.”

And where was I during this tedious evening of art world ballyhoo? I was at home reading Mark the Music, the wonderful biography of American composer Marc Blitzstein, written by Eric A. Gordon. A passage from Gordon’s book made me think of the raffish fête thrown for BCAM, and how much I’d like to read a few paragraphs of Mark the Music to the celebrity superstars and pin-ups who attended the BCAM gala party. During the height of McCarthyism, Blitzstein gave a 1956 public address that was broadcast on a Boston radio station, in which the composer lambasted the complacency of the American art scene… “a little adventure, please, a little air, a little gut.”

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