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Standing on the beach in Santa Monica amid a group of power players in the L.A. art scene, architect Kulapat Yantrasast — responsible for such projects as the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the new location of L.A.’s David Kordansky gallery — sees a new frontier for creative exploration in the public realm: “Look at the beach, public land, can we do something there?” The Thailand-born Los Angeles architect is a pioneer in the development and renovation of museum and gallery spaces around the world with his firm, wHY architecture. He came out Saturday night to support the Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND) in its fifth annual fundraiser and beach party. As to how Los Angeles is at an advantage with public art projects, Yantrasast went on to say: “In New York and Chicago, people have to fight for space, but here we almost take it for granted. [In the implementation of public art projects] LAND is leading the way.”
There were a number of key figures from the contemporary art scene in attendance at the Veuve Clicquot–sponsored beach party at the Beach Club on Saturday night. Producer Jeffrey Soros, actress Jennifer Tilly, CAA agent and collection curator Thao Nguyen, producer and director Richard Sakai, mega-collectors Stefan Simchowitz and Eugene Sadovoy, LACMA trustee Wendy Stark, LAND founder and director Shamim Momin, LACMA curator Franklin Sirmans, as well as artists Drew Heitzler and Zoe Crosher showed up for the creative nonprofit public arts advocacy group.
LAND has been supporting public art projects around the world for the past five years under the leadership of Momin, a former curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The organization has partnered with established and emerging artists on public art installations around the world. The Nomadic Council — the organization’s supporting board — includes art and entertainment figures such as collector and auctioneer Simon de Pury, art advisor Justin Gilanyi, architect Jennifer Luce, entertainment business manager John McIlwee, gallery owner Thaddaeus Ropac and model Erin Wasson.
One of LAND’s most visible recent projects is a progressive nationwide art installation called Manifest Destiny, featuring artists’ images on billboards on Interstate 10 from the East Coast to Los Angeles. The project has included contributions from artists John Baldessari, Sanford Biggers, Mario Ybarra Jr., and Zoe Crosher, who conceived of it.
One of the highlights of the beach party silent auction was a photograph by Crosher depicting a calm but brooding nighttime close-up of the seashore where Natalie Wood went missing off Catalina Island in 1981. The work is a fitting selection to support an organization that is something of a rebel with a cause and a new force in the increasing connection between Hollywood and the visual arts community. According to Nguyen, president of the board of directors for LAND: “I got involved with LAND partly because I believed in Shamin and her vision and she was feeling something was missing in the city. She really brings an interesting voice to the city. And that is what I was interested in supporting — a new voice in the city.”
Nguyen shared some thoughts about how the film and television community has assumed a greater role as patron to the visual arts in recent years: “I think the entertainment community — thanks to LACMA, the Hammer Museum and other big institutions — we are slowly building a vocabulary within the entertainment community and an education within the community to support these types of cultural institutions and initiatives. We needed to build a base that was deeply curious and engaged in cultural production in the city. People are now more engaged, more committed. It’s great that we are now the art production center of the world — that is really exciting. And when you talk about Angelenos — people who collect art, like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Keanu Reeves — what they do is they bring a dialogue and attention to a dialogue to a larger scale, which is really great.”
Soros, producer and president of Considered Entertainment, echoed Nguyen’s thoughts on the increasing support from the film community for arts organizations like LAND, citing people like Steve Martin as leaders in the entertainment industry: “It’s growing perhaps exponentially and it’s reflective of the growth that the L.A. art scene is having. Whether it’s Hollywood or people in L.A. in general, people are starting to understand that there is something of international quality happening here right under their noses. They are seeing that this is really interesting and they are getting involved. And it is only going to increase in the coming years.”
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