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Sculptures not taking shape as planned

At Disney Concert Hall's opening, two major art pieces will be absent. One will go on view in 2004, but the other is canceled.

August 11, 2003|Suzanne Muchnic | Times Staff Writer

The Walt Disney Concert Hall will be filled with music when it opens this fall, but two outdoor spaces envisioned for major artworks by internationally renowned sculptors will be empty.

A towering piece in the shape of a collar and bowtie by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen has merely been delayed, but a massive steel abstraction by Richard Serra never made it to the drawing board, says Stephen D. Rountree, president of the Music Center of Los Angeles.

Plans for "Collar and Bow" got underway a few years ago, at the suggestion of Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry, and the 50-by-50-foot sculpture was designated for Grand Avenue at 1st Street, near the entrance to the concert hall. The J. Paul Getty Trust and longtime Music Center patrons Richard and Geri Brawerman agreed to pay the lion's share of the cost, which has not been disclosed.

"But the sculpture always depended on Grand Avenue being widened because it sits on the widened corner," Rountree says. "It's a big thing, and it needs some room to breathe."

The Grand Avenue upgrade -- a $14.5-million project financed by the California Transportation Commission, other government sources and the Music Center -- was expected to begin last December and take eight months to complete.

But the state budget crisis delayed construction and, for a while, it looked as if plans for "Collar and Bow" would have to be scrapped.

"When we ran into delays in the Grand Avenue project, we just kept postponing any forward movement on the sculpture," Rountree says. "It was only in March of this year that all the funding for Grand Avenue came together. By then, it was no longer possible to fabricate the sculpture in time for the opening. When we got the green light, we went back to the artists and said we wanted to commission the work, sign the contract and aim toward an installation in the summer of 2004."

The artists, who were unavailable for comment, have yet to release final drawings of the piece. They are working out engineering aspects of the fiberglass and metal work and "tweaking the design to meet structural tests," Rountree says.

The Serra proposal, also initiated by Gehry, was abandoned in 2001.

"The idea was that Serra would do a work on Grand Avenue near 2nd Street," he says. "But the location was almost impossible because it would have meant putting a very heavy steel sculpture on a bridge. In the early conceptualizing, no one thought of that.

"The structural work required to support the sculpture and all the ramifications of working with the city and the county to make it happen just seemed insurmountable," he says. "It also seemed unlikely that we could secure the funding, so that piece was put aside. There are no plans to revive it."

Disney Hall won't be entirely bereft of art at the opening, however. Gehry has designed a fountain, "A Rose for Lily," as a tribute to Walt Disney's widow, the late Lillian B. Disney. The rose-shaped fountain will be covered with a mosaic of broken Delft vases. The project, now under construction in the concert hall's garden, was funded by the Disney family.

As for the future, no other art commissions are planned, but the possibility of presenting exhibitions in the restaurant is under discussion.

"It's a wonderful contemporary space with walls that would be great for artworks," Rountree says. "Talks are at a very early stage, but we imagine that the most interesting thing would be to have rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, perhaps by really good local artists."

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