Photo Essays

Inside LA’s Newest Art Museum, the Private Foundation of Fashion Moguls

A new private museum has taken over a former Masonic lodge in LA and transformed it into a 55,000-square-foot contemporary art venue.

An exterior view of the building from the sculpture courtyard. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — On May 25, a new private art institution opened its doors in the Windsor Square neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Marciano Arts Foundation (MAF) — it prefers not to be referred to as a museum — welcomed the public into its 110,000 sq. ft. building that contains over 55,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Originally designed by California painter and architect Millard Sheets as a Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, the building had been vacant since 1994. The structure’s original mosaics and exterior sculptures have been largely left intact, and the opening last month marks the first time the building will be open to the general public. This new sizable art institution is courtesy of Guess Inc. co-founders Paul and Maurice Marciano, who conceived of the space as an ‘Artist’s Playground.’

The space will host temporary exhibitions, welcome site-specific installations, and house the Marcianos’s 1,500-piece contemporary art collection. The duo have focused their collecting on art from after 1990s, including artists such as Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, and Takashi Murakami, and their personal collection occupies the top floor of the building. In the main lobby, visitors are greeted by a mural-sized work by Cindy Sherman flanked by sculptures by David Hammons.

The building and its Masonic history, plays heavily into MAF’s inaugural exhibitions. For their launch, the museum chose an established LA artist who has never had a comprehensive solo show in the city before, Jim Shaw. His large The Wig Museum installation fills a good portion of the galleries. The artist drew heavily on artifacts left behind in the temple by the Masons, from the wigs to enormous backdrops used in the Masons’ elaborate pageants. He created a maze-like installation in the massive multi-story main space, which had previously been a multi-level 2,000-seat theatre.

Another site-specific piece occupies a dark room on the second floor; inside a unique tent is a “sculptural theater” video piece by Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch. Titled “Ledge,” the artists were given free reign inside the empty temple for three months before the renovation began to create their six-channel video.

With such an extraordinary building the art inhabiting it is going to have to be up to the challenge.

The main lobby of the Marciano Arts Foundation.
A site-responsive mural by Cindy Sherman, “Untitled #549-E” (2010), featuring the artist in an outfit of the fraternal British order of the Oddfellows.
David Hammons, “Untitled” (2007)
A view of the third-floor exhibition space, housing works from the Marciano collection.
Jim Shaw’s “Wig Museum”
A wig on display at Jim Shaw’s impressive “Wig Museum”
Another view of Shaw’s “Wig Museum”
Another view of Shaw’s “Wig Museum”
From Shaw’s “Wig Museum”
Mysterious shadows in the “Wig Museum”
A painting with small embedded houses as part of the installation by Jim Shaw
Adrian Villar Rojas’s “Two Suns (II)” (2015), a seventeen-foot replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Takashi Murakami’s “3m Girl” (2011) on display
A close up of Takashi Murakami’s “Oval Buddha Silver” (2008)
A visitor looking at “ACTS/SURVIVAL HORROR” (2015) by Sterling Ruby
The room dedicated to artifacts left behind by the Masons who previously occupied the building.
An original stained glass window and artifacts left behind by the Masons who previously occupied the building.
An exterior view of the Foundation’s new home
A remaining emblem of the Masons decorates the elevator doors.
An exterior view of the building from the sculpture courtyard

Marciano Art Foundation (4357 Wilshire Boulevard, Windsor Square, Los Angeles) is free — though advanced ticketing is required. It is open Thursday–Friday 11am–5pm and Saturdays 10am–6pm. It is closed Sunday–Tuesday and national holidays.

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