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Celebration of Art

November 23, 1986

The public opening today of the Robert O. Anderson Building at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a moment of particular elation for Earl A. Powell III, the director of the museum. Half of the permanent collection of 20th-Century art, acquired since Powell became the director in 1980, has never before been shown in the museum. And there, on the upper level, is a masterpiece that was at the top of his "curator's wish list."

That masterpiece is Georges Braque's "Still Life with Violin," painted in 1914, acquired only this year by the museum after searching for a perfect example of cubism. It hangs conspicuously as the first impression for visitors beginning their tour of this fecund period of artistic endeavor, its effect reinforced by an early Picasso on an adjoining wall, by a glimpse in the gallery beyond of that sublime garden scene, "Tea," that Henri Matisse painted five years later.

Hanging the collection in the new Anderson Building was not as complicated as we had imagined, Powell explained. A commitment to present the collection in chronological order dictated the general plan. And the architecture of the gallery space neither dictates the location of the art nor does it intrude.

"The architecture is very neutral," he said. "We asked for it."

In anticipation of today's opening, Powell and other leaders of the museum have been hosting previews for the 80,000 members. The response? "Overwhelmingly positive," Powell said--this despite a drenching rain that coincided with a black-tie dinner, sorely testing the decision to leave largely open to the elements the Times Mirror Central Court that connects the original Ahmanson and Hammer buildings and the Bing Center with the new Anderson Building.

"People have been saying, 'How nice to see old friends,' but they are also saying, 'How good to see new ones,' " Powell said, speaking of the response to the works of the 20th-Century collection--some familiar, some never exhibited in the museum before. "They are saying they never knew we had such a wonderful collection," Powell added.

Three levels of exhibition space in the new structure add 50,000 square feet to gallery areas of the museum, an increase of 38%, making it the largest art museum west of the nation's capital. Today's public opening is the first of two celebrations of art in Los Angeles. The second will come Dec. 10 with the inauguration of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

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