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Museum parties con Tiki

Young Hollywood types flock to the all-night affair, where LACMA thanked the city in the form of free admission and entertainment.

June 19, 2004|Scott Timberg | Times Staff Writer

Mostly, it felt like a party, with martinis, couples on dates, loud music, the brandishing of cellphones and lots of animated talking.

There were a few unusual notes: a line of people painting a very busy mural, two crestfallen young men stopped by guards as they tried to enter an art exhibition with an open bottle of wine. Even so, it was the kind of crowd not out of place at any hip Hollywood hangout.

It was the second-ever art party at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a 7 p.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday event that drew about 9,000 people for free admission to the museum and mingling in the courtyard -- some after standing in long lines.

The part-Tiki-themed event was the museum's chance to "thank Los Angeles for its continued support" and to expose the place to people who don't normally visit, museum spokesman Bo Smith said.

Long tables selling museum memberships were clearly another reason for the event, which seemed targeted at the under-35 crowd so elusive to cultural institutions.

"There's nothing like this in Los Angeles," said visitor Angela Jones, a producer of nonprofit cultural events, who said she enjoyed both the art and the chance to bump into friends. At midnight, she said she was good for another hour and a half.

Museum offerings included book signings by "lowbrow" artist Gary Baseman, retro-hipster painter Shag, Tiki-culture historian Sven Kirsten and Sandow Birk, whose latest work is an adaptation of Dante's "Inferno" to contemporary Los Angeles.

Producer Brian Grazer unveiled a Vespa scooter designed by "Obey Giant" artist Shepard Fairey, to be auctioned on EBay for LACMA youth programs.

And there were live painting demonstrations, several bars, ironic "Spamburgers" and two exhibitions left open all night.

Although the galleries were not as packed as the courtyard, several guests mentioned "Inventing Race: Casta Painting and 18th-Century Mexico," as a big draw.

A collection of canvases showing white, Indian, mestizo and black citizens of Spain's New World, the show provoked impromptu tour groups and discussions.

"I'd heard a lot about it," Joseph Montalvo, a Venice-based muralist, said of the show as he discussed a casta painting with Carribean Fragoza, a student. "It's really interesting to see the early mixing going on."

"I like the interactive murals," said Fragoza, who'd also come to see the Cuban band Mezcla.

The other open exhibition was "Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s-70s," which also drew the crowds.

"I love to see so many people, across the divide, a diverse crowd, having a good evening," said Jean-Luc Sibiude, the French consul general based in L.A.

"Los Angeles needs places that stay open past 10 o'clock. We call that in France a 'public venue.' That's very important in a city."

Tiki purist Kirsten had a slightly different take:

"The Tiki fans are all up in arms that they're calling this a Tiki party, but it's not really," said Kirsten, who literally wrote the book on the subject. "People could've done carving demonstrations, bands could've played appropriate music. But my basic approach is that Tiki is god of all artists."

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