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Cameras at the ready

The Annenberg Space for Photography opens with 'L8s Ang3les,' a

March 28, 2009|Jessica Gelt

The multimillion-dollar Annenberg Space for Photography has opened in Century City, touted by the Annenberg Foundation as "the first solely photographic cultural destination in the Los Angeles area."

The print and digital gallery, designed to mimic the optical language of a camera with an aperture in the ceiling and curved walls resembling 35-millimeter film canisters, is located in Century Park, on the footprint of the old Shubert Theatre.

"We did a cultural audit of the landscape of L.A., which pointed to the fact that there wasn't a prominent venue devoted to photo as its single mission," says Leonard Aube, the managing director of the Annenberg Foundation. Trustee and Vice President Wallis Annenberg loved the idea, and the foundation went about creating a 10,000-square-foot gallery capable of displaying nearly 80 classic prints on the wall and more than 1,000 digital images in the digital gallery.

The inaugural exhibition, titled "L8s Ang3les," features the work of seven prominent L.A. photographers, including Julius Shulman (who at 98 years old showed up at Wednesday's opening-night party in a wheelchair), John Baldessari, Greg Gorman and Lauren Greenfield, and four Los Angeles Times photographers: Carolyn Cole, Genaro Molina, Kirk McKoy and Lawrence K. Ho. Opening-night guests, including Eli and Edythe Broad, Rosetta Getty, Liz Goldwyn, Wendy Stark and Betsy Bloomingdale, drank, ate and watched a jubilant band perform in a lavish outdoor tent.

Aube says Century Park's developers shopped the space around to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty and the Santa Monica Museum of Art before the foundation decided to move its headquarters to the building and use the space as a way to "redefine the foundation's relationship to the community."

No expense was spared -- though the foundation won't give the precise cost -- when it came to building the space, which is open to the public and free. The digital gallery sports several high-definition video projectors with resolution nearly seven times greater than that of a plasma TV screen. The images can be blown up to 7 feet tall, and there are about half a dozen smaller screens that also display a constantly rotating cast of photos.

The "L8s Ang3les" exhibition, curated by Houston Museum of Fine Art photo curator Anne Wilkes Tucker, is on display through June.

Just off the digital gallery is a small room for workshops (Gorman and Shulman are scheduled to do the first workshops), and beyond that is a reading room stocked with books on photography.

In between those rooms is the gallery's most innovative flourish: a state-of-the-art kitchen. The space is stark and modern with large glass tubes of citrus fruit and wine stacked in bins. It's meant to be a place for photographers to hang out, discuss theory and share ideas.

Why a kitchen? Aube says, "Because all the best conversations happen in the kitchen."

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jessica.gelt@latimes.com

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Annenberg Space for Photography

Where: Century Plaza, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City

Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays

Price: Free

Contact: (213) 403-3000 or www.annenbergspaceforphotography.org

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