Hd — Presents For L.A.
It’s just happenstance, but this is the month that several long-standing projects finally took definitive turns all of them leading, we believe, to a more vibrant, reinvigorated Los Angeles.
It starts with next week’s opening of the new Getty Center. Years in the making, the $1 billion, 110-acre arts complex is the talk of art lovers the world over. While that talk is peppered with sarcasm concerning L.A.’s “coming of age” as a cultural center a dubious designation given the area’s already significant offerings the recognition is nonetheless better late than never.
And there will be more of it; a recent article in Forbes touted Los Angeles as a center for contemporary art (again, more a case of recognition than actual news). “It was blasphemous to say Los Angeles was better than New York a few years ago. Now I think people are beginning to catch on,” said Heidi Steiger, a principal at the money management firm Neuberger & Berman who also serves on the photography committee of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Too much attention so far has focused on whether Angelenos will appreciate the Getty’s assorted treasures. Indeed, David Geffen was quoted in a New Yorker article as questioning whether Los Angeles “deserves” the Getty. Such blatant elitism fuels the never-ending stereotype of a brainless, uninvolved L.A.
That certainly hasn’t been the case with the recent fund-raising efforts toward construction of downtown’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. We might quibble with Walt Disney Co. being slow to step forward (as well as the fact that its contribution comes in the form of a challenge gift). But its $25 million commitment is significant and would seem to assure, finally, that the long-awaited Concert Hall will be built.
It would also be nice to believe Disney Chairman Michael Eisner when he suggested last week that the company is serious about its civic-minded responsibilities. It’s Eisner himself who has an opportunity to become a business leader for L.A. in much the way that Eli Broad has been in the last year or so. It was Broad’s efforts that led to the many corporate commitments for Disney Hall and arguably saved the project from the scrap heap.
We regret that local business support for the downtown sports arena was so slow in coming and that so much of the heavy lifting fell to the lobbying efforts of the relatively small Central City Association. We also regret the necessity of a $100 million corporate sponsorship by Staples, the Massachusetts-based office supply retailer, not to mention the requirement of naming the place the Staples Center. Of course, one need only look at Disney Hall to realize that this is how the game must be played these days.
Indeed, unpleasant preliminaries have characterized all three projects, including design changes, political skirmishes and funding challenges. There undoubtedly will be lessons learned many of which have yet to play out but for the moment, it’s a good time to reflect on how important these facilities will be in showcasing the shape and scope of a 21st century Los Angeles.
Now, if only the subway mess could be resolved and a sensible transportation plan implemented in its place this town would really be cooking.