When the many-headed exhibition extravaganza "Pacific Standard Time" opens in October 2011, some 40 Southern California museums and nonprofit galleries will offer shows focusing in one manner or another on the origins of the art scene here, from 1945 to 1980.
Since the first news conference in 2008, it has been clear that "Pacific Standard Time" is easily the biggest collaboration that Southern California museums have undertaken. Now that collaboration is getting even bigger, thanks to two new initiatives.
The Getty Trust, which has been coordinating and funding the project through its different branches, has confirmed there will be a performance and public art festival scheduled for nine days at the end of January 2012. Glenn Phillips, the Getty Research Institute curator who is overseeing the festival, says planners are considering re-creating several historic performances that rocked the California art scene, including Judy Chicago's "Atmospheres" (spectacles involving smoke and fireworks, for which she put her pyrotechnic license to use) and Mark di Suvero's 1966 "Peace Tower" (the centerpiece of a massive, collaborative antiwar art installation).
But none of those proposals is firm as the Getty Foundation recently made a grant of $210,000 to a new partner, the nonprofit gallery LAX Art, to realize the festival. LAX Art founder Lauri Firstenberg says that some funds will be used to help produce events or artworks for the festival but that the "majority of the money" will be redistributed to other nonprofit organizations that want to participate. Grant guidelines are online at http://www.laxart.org; proposals are due Sept. 15.
On another front, several commercial galleries in the area report that the Getty has begun to reach out to them as well. Andrew Perchuk, deputy director of the Getty Research Institute, confirmed that he has had early, exploratory conversations with a handful of galleries, including Rosamund Felsen and Gagosian, to see whether they are interested in organizing shows related to "Pacific Standard Time" during its run.
Related shows, he said, could be anything from a historic presentation drawn from gallery archives to new work by an artist featured in other "Pacific Standard Time" projects. Based on the enthusiasm of his admittedly small sample, Perchuk plans to "write to probably 100 galleries all the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara, or L.A. to Palm Springs, to invite them to a meeting" to discuss as much. He plans to be inclusive. "If you're a gallery not on that list," he adds, "you're invited too."
Unlike the nonprofit museum and gallery partners, which have received nearly $7 million in funding from the Getty Foundation from multiple rounds of grant applications, the commercial galleries will not get any Getty funding. But they will presumably enjoy piggybacking effects and audience spillover from the larger publicity and marketing push that the institution is making.
The Getty is working with New York-based public relations firm Ruder Finn and the L.A. offices of TBWAChiatDay to get its message out. Considering the unusual — those involved describe the "unprecedented" nature of the project — summaries do not come easy. And it's arguably harder if "Pacific Standard Time" goes beyond museums and other nonprofits to include commercial galleries too. What is "Pacific Standard Time" if not one massive collaboration?
The Getty leaders behind the scenes are still working on ways to describe it. Some compare it to a massive, long-running, multi-venue film festival with one central subject: the history of visual art in L.A. Others see it as a cultural tourism exhibition-event such as Documenta, which takes over the town of Kassel, Germany, every five years.
Nobody interviewed for this story mentioned the recent Ring Festival in L.A. as a point of comparison, perhaps because of its lack of impact in the visual arts community. But Perchuk did describe the upcoming project as an arts festival of a sort with a difference.
"In general, you have a major event and a festival around it, like the Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles," he says, referring to the 1984 program. "But in this case, the exhibitions are the events — and for most museums, the most important projects they're doing all year."