So this blog post is essentially a review of an article The New York Times ran this week entitled, “Los Angeles Art Scene Comes Into Its Own” (more on that title in a minute), and the fact that only the Times would look at the City of Los Angeles with precious, paternalistic, unknowingly dismissive eyes saying, “Aw, how cute . . . Look at them trying to go to college.”
The title is hilarious. First off, what exactly is a city’s “art scene”? Is it measured in the amount of money spent in galleries by big time investors? The amount of museums with ancient Roman nude statues and Egyptian Sphinxes (which only serve to bore tourists)? Or is it measured by the number of artists currently producing work? Let’s say in fifty years it’s revealed that the most important visual artists of this generation were actually working the whole time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Is that not right now the most important “art scene” in the country, and we just don’t know it yet?
If The New York Times is going to treat the second most populated city in the United States, which is internationally known and lauded as a center for fashion, film, and progressive thinking as an adorable place “com[ing] into its own” (like the nerdy kid you root for in a teen comedy), then they definitely are going to ignore Milwaukee, Detroit, New Orleans (two cities that are well-known living destinations for young artists) and the rest.
The article also repeatedly mentions that the art scene is developing in Los Angeles due to oil money, which probably doesn’t sound invigorating to the average NY Times reader. It says that “the Hammer . . . one of several cultural institutions in Los Angeles, along with the Getty Center and Getty Villa . . . were founded on the eclectic private collections of billionaires who made their fortunes in the oil business.” I could just see those high-brow east coasters rolling their eyes at that one. In the meantime, let’s just forget that NYC’s art scene lives off the money of hedge fund billionaires, real estate tycoons, and if you look back far enough: slavery. Is anyone going to sit here and say that great wealth in New York is achieved in the most noble of ways?
“Los Angeles Art Scene Comes Into Its Own” also interviews a couple of artists who recently relocated from New York to LA and hate it. They try to stay optimistic, but are wishy-washy about it—much like any New Yorker is when they move to LA, much like every LA person is when they move to New York. One of them, Jordan Wolfson, is clearly going to go back to New York one day, and the other, Michael Williams, felt “extreme doubt” upon arrival, and also said that the artists in LA aren’t “trying to make something happen here” (which is such a New Yorker thing to think—that everyone else in every other place is lazy). I can’t help but think that this is a biased sample that the journalist chose for the article.
This is all to say: is this article necessary at all? Is it nothing else but more of the same NYC vs. LA, which one is better? Tupac or Biggie? Car or subway? Film or theatre? East coast vs. east coast mentality? Pacific or Atlantic? And then during election times when we feel that sense of camaraderie because, well, we’re all liberals anyway. The bottom line is: some people prefer LA. Some people prefer NYC. You can keep arguing until the end of time, and it won’t matter.
But more importantly, a city’s art scene is too complex to break down in one article. It’s something that just exists within the people. It exists in Korea Town, in Echo Park, in the cafes with local art on the walls, that host poetry readings that only the boyfriends and girlfriends of the poets go to, in the music scene, the stand-up comedy and improve scene, even the drug scene. It exists in artists selling their work on the street, on the walls that are graffiti’d, in the open space where people can share ideas. This, to me, is a city’s “art scene”, and this certainly isn’t validated when The New York Times says so. It just is what it is. And if that means that it’s different than New York, that it doesn’t have boring Roman nude sculptures, or a Van Gogh that tourists take selfies in front of and never think about again, then so be it.
By: David Plick