Buildings, not artworks, dominated art reporting in the year that we just tossed out with our empty champagne bottles. The news for 1986? Nothing has changed; just another boring year of grand new art museums.
The difference this time is that we won't have to go to the East Coast or Europe to see the new additions. If construction schedules hold forth as promised, Los Angeles will christen two long-awaited and much-discussed edifices.
The County Museum of Art's Robert O. Anderson Building for modern and contemporary art is expected to welcome the public in late November with an exhibition called "The Spiritual in Art," coordinated by Maurice Tuchman with the help of an international group of scholars. The major survey of spiritual themes in modern art will occupy one floor of the new structure, while selections from the museum's permanent collection settle into the other two stories.
The following month, the Museum of Contemporary Art will take up permanent residence in architect Arata Isozaki's intriguing new building, downtown in the Bunker Hill development. Administrators haven't announced what art will be displayed there, but they are making noises about showing the collection that has been growing along with the building.
We'll have to wait longer for the new culture palace planned by the J. Paul Getty Trust for a hillside site in Brentwood, but in September we will get our first look at the Getty's new photography collection, in an exhibition at the museum in Malibu.
Meanwhile, two other openings are tentatively scheduled for the spring: The Huntington Art Gallery, which suffered fire damage last fall, will resume its decorous activities in refurbished splendor, and the Laguna Beach Museum of Art will inaugurate its new addition with a retrospective exhibition of Elmer Bischoff's expressionistic paintings.
Nothing to do but wait for the celebrations? Well, hardly. Even the museums with the biggest stakes in new architecture aren't sitting still on their programs. The County Museum of Art, for example, leads off with a trio of promising exhibitions in late February. First comes a survey of landscapes by 19th-Century American painter George Inness, which should appeal to the folks who loved John Frederick Kensett's landscapes last year.
Second, a possible sleeper, "The Amasis Painter and His World," showcases Greek life as painted on handsome vases by a prominent Athenian artist in the 6th Century BC. (The J. Paul Getty Museum, co-sponsor of the Greek show, will offer a four-day symposium on the subject with a public lecture Feb. 27 at 8:30 p.m.)
And third, "Masterpieces From the Shin'enkan Collection: Japanese Painting of the Edo Period" previews an extraordinary collection to be housed in yet another new building, to be constructed at the museum. Collector Joe D. Price gave the Shin'enkan collection (named for a Japanese painter's studio) to the museum in 1983. With his cache of Japanese treasures came the design and partial funding for a pavilion to house it. The introduction to Price's collection will consist of scrolls, screens and albums, most of them in their first U.S. showing.
The County Museum of Art will make a big summer splash with 40 paintings by seven major Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, on loan from Soviet museums as part of an exchange engineered by industrialist and museum trustee Armand Hammer. A preliminary list of works to be sent here in mid-July from the Hermitage and the Pushkin museums includes superior examples by Matisse, Gauguin, Cezanne and Van Gogh.
As this column was shaping up, LACMA added another entry to its already extensive 1986 schedule: "The Northern Renaissance: Art of 15th- and 16th-Century Germany from the State Museum of Berlin" (Oct. 3-Jan. 18). This important-sounding exhibition, organized with the National Gallery in Washington, will offer paintings by Van Eyck, Memling, Bruegel, Holbein and Altdorfer and drawings by Duerer, along with decorative arts in silver and sculpture of wood and stone.
While the Museum of Contemporary Art looks forward to its permanent home, its popular interim facility, the Temporary Contemporary, has geared up for an overdue batch of retrospective exhibitions of American artists. We'll see 25 years of witty, room-size constructions, paintings, films and drawings by Red Grooms (March 17-June 29); the prodigious talents of Jonathan Borofsky, in a huge survey that has already traveled across the country (March 17-May 18), and a broad view of photojournalist W. Eugene Smith's extraordinary career (June 16-Aug. 10).
The late Barry Lowen's critically revered collection of contemporary art, recently bequeathed to MOCA, will be unveiled this year at the Temporary Contemporary (June 16-Aug. 10). Also coming to the TC are a 30-year retrospective of sculptor John Chamberlain's lyrical constructions of crushed metal (July 30-Oct. 26) and a survey of William Brice's paintings and works on paper (Sept. 1-Oct. 19).