California’s Marciano Museum Closes

Los Angeles’ Marciano Art Foundation, the three-year-old art museum founded by Marciano brothers, Paul and Maurice—who made their fortune in the jeans business—has unceremoniously closed.

Paul and Maurice Marciano came to Los Angeles in 1981 from France and founded a denim company that eventually became the very successful GUESS? clothing and lifestyle brand. According to the Museum’s website, around that time the brothers started collecting contemporary art. In 2012 the brothers established their art foundation and the following year purchased a former Scottish rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard in Hancock Park, which opened as the Marciano Art Foundation in 2017.

The Marciano Art Foundation’s collection consists, according to the Foundation’s website, of “over 1500 works by more than 200 artists, from the 1990s to the present.” The Foundation, in its brief existence, was most notable for its many strong temporary or traveling exhibits by such artists as Ai Wei Wei, Yayoi Kusuma, Catherine Opie, and Olafur Eliasson.

A private art foundation and museum (there are several in Los Angeles including the Broad), confer many benefits to the founders, including but not limited to tax advantages in acquiring and for exhibiting work, and there is the belief that exhibiting the work is itself a self-validating activity that can raise the value of the works exhibited.

Artnet News has reported that the Museum closed as employees were attempting to unionize. To the Los Angeles Times , the Marcianos gave an official statement that visitor attendance had significantly declined in the last few months.

Speaking personally, I felt the Museum never really found its footing. It operated on a reservation-only basis for attendance, and many people I knew had difficulty getting a reservation for popular shows such as by Kusama or Ai Wei Wei. Beyond that, the Museum did not distinguish itself enough for other LA institutions such as The Hammer, Museum Of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) all of which exhibit contemporary art.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the museum “Has no present plans to reopen.” Among Los Angeles’ art aficionados, no one is saying that the Marciano is something they will miss. However, one can only hope the collection will continue to be exhibited to the public at some other Los Angeles art institution and that the Marcianos and their foundation continue to sponsor visiting or traveling exhibitions bolstering Los Angeles’ remaining contemporary Art institution such as MOCA, LACMA or the Hammer.

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