Art is the next big thing

July 24, 2014 

"Nighthawks," from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, will be seen in L.A. and nationwide.

Edward Hopper’s moody “Nighthawks” will be having their after-hours cups of java on a wall in San Francisco—and at 18 feet high by 50 feet wide, they’ll be hard to miss.

Grant Wood’s dour duo from “American Gothic” will be living large on the staircase of New York’s Port Authority.

And here in L.A., rush hour traffic will be getting a jolt of cultural uplift as buses rumble by wrapped in iconic works like Ed Ruscha’s “Hollywood.”

Just like millions of vacationers, American art is hitting the road this summer.

Starting August 4, 58 masterpieces will be breaking out of five major museums and onto the streets. The exhibition, called Art Everywhere US, is modeled after a similar show in the United Kingdom and is intended to create what the organizers call a “free, open-air art gallery across the country” throughout the month of August.

The featured reproductions include 11 pieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Among them: Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can,” Roy Lichtenstein’s “Cold Shoulder,” Willem de Kooning’s “Montauk Highway” and Mark Rothko’s “White Center.”

But L.A.’s al fresco gallery won’t be limited to the LACMA works; all 58 of the featured pieces will be on display here at some 500 locations around town. Exact locations will be announced soon on the project’s website, where an interactive map will make spotting the masterpieces easy. There also will be an Instagram contest for people to show off selfies they’ve taken with the oversized artworks.

Coming soon to a bus shelter near you.

In addition to the wrapped buses, “the digital billboards in L.A. will be featuring the art works,” said Stephen J. Freitas, chief marketing officer of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, which is collaborating on the project with LACMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery, the Whitney and the Dallas Museum of Art. “We’ve got a wonderful Warhol that’s going to be coming your way on a lot of bus shelters.”

Nationwide, the art is being displayed in all 50 states on donated billboard and other advertising space valued at tens of millions of dollars, Freitas said. The effort started with 100 works of art suggested by the museums; members of the public then had a chance to vote on their favorites to winnow down the list to the final 58.

Taken together, the pieces represent a kind of American Art 101—from Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington to Robert Mapplethorpe’s portrait of “Ken Moody and Robert Sherman.”

“It’s a great opportunity not only for LACMA to represent Los Angeles, but to show its history through a painting like Millard Sheets’ ‘Angel’s Flight,’ or Ed Ruscha’s depiction of the Hollywood sign,” said Michael Govan, LACMA’s director and CEO.

And you don’t need to be an art history major to enjoy it.

“We’re hoping this campaign will help drive more interest in American art and drive people to more American museums to see art in person. But we also think it’s a great way to just give people a lift in their day, give them something unexpected on their way to work or traveling down the road,” Freitas said. “We think it will inspire a little happiness in American life, we hope, for a few days or a few moments.”

Ed Ruscha's "Hollywood" moves from LACMA to the streets in August.

Posted 7/24/14

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