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Course Spotlight: Loot, Plunder and the Ethics of Art Collecting

Instructor Lyssa Stapleton

The history, or “provenance” of works of art has become an increasingly important consideration for museums when making acquisitions. Acquiring works of art looted by the Nazi regime or from war torn regions is now considered ethically unacceptable. At the same time, museums are filled with legally questionable objects obtained during the last three hundred years. This fall course will examine the ethical implications of collecting, owning, and curating art and antiquities. Students will learn about the historical context of this topic through classroom lectures, then visit local museums to view works in person.

We spoke with instructor Lyssa Stapleton about the course. For course details, and to enroll, click here.

What about your course topic interests you, and how did you get started investigating this area of study?

Several events during the 21st century have brought the status of art and antiquities into the spotlight: The Getty Museum’s return of stolen works of art to Italy and Greece, the looting of the Baghdad Museum, the destruction, looting, and trade of cultural material by the so-called Islamic State, and the return of a number of very important works of art to the descendents of holocaust victims. These cases, among others, represent a turning point in the way we perceive cultural heritage material and have resulted in some extraordinary shifts in the way museums acquire and interpret it.

I am both an archaeologist and a curator, two roles that are often in conflict. As a curator, I’ve been involved in the acquisition of works of art that lack provenance (ownership history). As an archaeologist, I am opposed to the trade in illicit cultural heritage because it fuels the looting of museums and archaeological sites. These combined interests coalesced in my doctoral dissertation Acquiring Antiquity: The Future of Cultural Heritage Collecting and Stewardship in the United States, which examined provenance research methods and resources, museum stewardship, and the development of legal statutes involving stolen, looted, or otherwise illicit works of art.

What can students expect from your class?

This course is an opportunity to consider and examine the concept of cultural heritage. In so doing, students will learn about the trade in cultural heritage material, including antiquities and Nazi looted art. They will research and consider the nature and definitions of cultural heritage, the history and future of art collecting, and the role of ethics, public opinion, and the law in current issues surrounding the acquisition of important works of art. Classroom meetings will include structured topical discussions based on readings and other research materials and students will be asked to compile a case study focusing on a topic their choice, to be presented on the final day of the course.

American GIs hand-carry paintings looted by the Nazis (Photo credit: NARA / Public Domain)

American GIs admire “In the Conservatory”, a masterpiece by Edouard Manet in a mine where it had been stashed by the Nazis. (Photo credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD / Public Domain)

What museums do you plan to visit, and why is it important to see these works in person?

Looted art has often been in the headlines in the last decade and it is a topic that interests a wide range of people. What we think of as art is often cultural expression and can have meaning far beyond aesthetic appeal. Knowing the provenance of a work of art adds to one’s enjoyment of it. I believe that it is important that people realize where the art in museums comes from and what it may mean to the culture that created it or the people who have owned it.

The gold phiale at the center of the legal case known as “U.S. vs An Antique Platter of Gold”. Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

We are fortunate to have several world-class museums in Los Angeles, each possessing phenomenal collections of art and antiquities. Our museum visits will include focused discussions with curators who will provide insight into the acquisition history of specific items, aspects of the museum’s history or current initiatives relating to provenance scholarship. We will visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and discuss the recent acquisition of an 18th century Qing dynasty chaopao (formal court robe). We will visit the Getty Center and meet with members of their Provenance Research Project who will discuss their work and guide us through relevant exhibits.

The third museum is yet undecided and will depend on the interests of the class. These visits will allow students to see specific works of art in a new light. The in-depth discussion with museum staff is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the role of local museums as stewards of these works of art and their efforts to acquire not only for the sake of building their collection, but to broaden visitor experience, preserve precious cultural heritage, and develop scholarly practices that include an awareness of the important of provenance.

Cuneiform tablet. Image from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York Press Release “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, July 5, 2017 United States Files Civil Action To Forfeit Thousands Of Ancient Iraqi Artifacts Imported By Hobby Lobby”

 

New Course: Moderism and Postmoderism in the Visual Arts

This summer we are pleased to offer a new course in our Downtown LA Center. Modernism and Postmoderism in the Visual Arts helps students to better understand the two main cultural paradigms of our times: modernism and postmodernism. The course will examine the ways in which they represent a continuity, as well as their extreme ideological and aesthetic divergences. Includes visits to the nearby MOCA and Broad Museums.

Class meets Tuesday, July 24 at 7pm in the Downtown LA center. For more info, and to enroll, click here.

The course is taught by Dahn Hiuni. We spoke with him about his goals for the course.

Your course investigates modernism and postmodernism; what about these movements interest you, and what can students expect to learn in your lectures?

 The 20th century was certainly a fascinating one. I am interested in how cultural shifts get reflected in the art of the time. The shift from modernism to postmodernism is quite a dramatic one, worthy of investigation. Because it is so recent and still part of our epoch, students may find it useful to understand the pervasive references to these terms. By the end of the course, students will have a solid understanding of the differences between the 2 movements.

What museums are you planning to visit, and why?

 The Broad is a wonderful new addition to the LA art scene. It has fine examples of both modern and postmodern art, and the building itself is a great example of postmodern architecture. MOCA invariably has wonderful exhibits of contemporary art, allowing us to view and discuss the latest in cultural production.

What do you feel is something unique Los Angeles has to offer art lovers?

LA is a world class art capital. The many museums and galleries support any study of art. Many artists continuously move to LA from other parts of the country, making it a most vibrant and dynamic art scene.

 

Which collections or works are you looking forward to sharing with your students?

I am particularly looking forward to the visit to the Broad Museum. Not only for its excellent collection, but for the building itself.

Contemporary Los Angeles Art: First Itinerary

Instructor Brenda Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students often wonder what kind of galleries, artists and museums they’ll be visiting in Contemporary Los Angeles Art. Instructor Brenda Williams has shared the first class itinerary with us. Of her inspiration for the class, Brenda says:

“The unique thing LA has to offer art lovers right now is an overwhelming amount of resources to find new, emerging and established artists, galleries and museums. The city has exploded in art work over the past 5 years and you get to see work from local and world renown artists in under a 25 mile radius. There are also new museums to explore like The Underground Museum, The El Segundo Museum and the Marciano Museum.”

Saturday, April 7, 11am

THE WENDE MUSEUM

10808 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230

A collections-based research and education institute that preserves Cold War artifacts and history, making resources available to scholars and applying historical lessons of the past to the present.

Armory

The Wende Museum

LUNCH: Mexican Restaurant on Washington

SUSANNE VIELMETTER GALLERY

Nicole Eisenman, Dark Light

6006 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232 (Artist: Nicole Eisenman)

ROBERTS PROJECTS

5801 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232 (Artists: Daniel Crews Chubb and Ed Templeton)

Crews Chubb Lion

Daniel Crews-Chubb, Lion

 

BLUM & POE

2727 S. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034  (Artist: Robert Colescott)

Go Behind the Scenes of the LA Art World with Brenda Williams

 

This spring, we’re looking forward to working once again with Brenda Williams to offer Contemporary Los Angeles Art. Brenda is a local art adviser and independent curator specializing in emerging contemporary artists. Her class will meet over five Saturdays, and explore areas in the Los Angeles art world not usually accessible to the public. Visits will focus on private home collections, artists studios, and curator-led gallery tours. Each six-hour meeting will include multiple location visits.

To read more about the class, and register for spring, click here.

We spoke with Brenda about her background, and what artists she’s watching now.

How did you get interested in art collecting, and what were your first experiences in the art world?

My first collecting experiences were record albums by cutting edge artists like New Birth, Mandrill, Parliament Funkadelic and Betty Davis.

After college I moved to Italy where I worked for Marilena Bonomo and honed my taste for contemporary art. I worked with many emrging artists during my tenure at the gallery; Julio Paolini, Sol Lewitt, David Tremlett to name a few.

Upon my return to the states I became interested in and began collecting African Art and textiles. I fell in love with the masks of the various tribes of west Africa. The techniques of textile makers from around the world were so amazing like ikat and embroidery I couldn’t resist their beauty. I had to have as many textiles as my walls could hold. I’ve also collected tea services porcelain, tin, and glass: pots, sugar/cream receptacles and trays.

What artists or galleries are you excited about right now?

There are so many new galleries that have opened downtownsince I first started teaching this class. Right now two of my newer favorite galleries are Wilding Cran who show artists Karon Davis and Hap Tivey; and Commonwealth and Council who is currently showing an extraordinary work by Rafa Esparza.

What do you feel is something unique Los Angeles has to offer art lovers?

The unique thing LA has to offer art lovers right now is an overwhelming amount of resources to find new, emerging and established artists, galleries and museums. The city has exploded in art work over the past 5 years and you get to see work from local and world renown artists in under a 25 mile radius. There are also new museums to explore like The Underground Museum, The El Segundo Museum and the Marciano Museum.

Which collections or works are you looking forward to sharing with your students?

The Wende Museum has recently opened their new space in Culver City and it’s a wonderful and amazing museum of post-cold war ephemera mixed with today’s artists who riff off of that early material. I’m also very excited to see the upcoming Robert Colescott show at Blum and Poe.

For those who are interested in learning more about the art world in Los Angeles, how would you recommend getting started?

Visit as many museums and galleries as you can. Ask a lot of questions. Read art based publications like CARLA and Artillery. And if that leaves you wanting more, take my class Contemporary Los Angeles Art this spring.

Course Spotlight: Michelangelo and the Dawn of Modern Art

Michelangelo’s David

Breaking many of the rules of Renaissance art in his struggle to express his inner experience of the divine, Michelangelo gave artists a new artistic vocabulary that moved past the Renaissance and toward a profoundly relevant style that ultimately is called Modern art.

In the upcoming course, Michelangelo and the Dawn of Modern Art, the artist’s legacy will be explored through three lectures and a field trip to the Getty Villa.

Instructor Rebbeca Ginnings tells us a bit more about it:

Why is this course important for my understanding of art?

In terms of technique, Michelangelo seems to turn stone to flesh. Design-wise, he translates antiquity into a more modern statement, providing a bridge or transition to modern art. A better understanding of Michelangelo and his work leads us to understand how his work has influenced both European and American artists.

What will the course consist of?

We will meet for three lectures on Michelangelo’s work followed by a field trip to the Getty Villa to look at prototypes of Michelangelo’s designs, to see how the originals related to the designs he ended up making.

What will I take away from this course?

Students will gain a better understanding of the influence of antiquity on Western art.

Enroll in Michelangelo and the Dawn of Modern Art today!

Sample Itinerary for Contemporary Los Angeles Art

Image via The Underground Museum

We’ve been getting questions about the types of excursions students will be going on in Contemporary Los Angeles Art, so instructor Brenda Williams has provided us with the itinerary for the first meeting. Take a look to see the first class adventure!

Our first stop will be to visit the Underground Museum in Mid-City. The two year old museum was the brilliant idea of the late Noah Davis, his wife Karon and his brother Kahlil Joseph. As artists they decided to create a neighborhood museum for people who may be too intimidated to visit the established museums, to view works of art by major contemporary artists. Most folks can walk here. There are late night movies, artists talks, star gazing and a really nice garden to sit in and contemplate life.

We’ll get acquainted in their garden, followed by a walkthrough of the current exhibition: Non-Fiction: William Kentridge and Karon Davis.

Lunch at Juicy’s (Naturaliart) Jamaican Restaurant. This is as traditional as you can get this far away from the Caribbean.

After we’ll visit a few west side galleries.

To read more about the class, and enroll, click here. For questions, call (310) 206-1422.

Exploring Street Art in Venice

Street Art

Instructor Lizy Dastin took a few photos during this weekend’s meeting of Exploring Street Art. Via Lizy:

“In last Saturday’s Exploring Street Art class, we met with local public artist and teacher Robin Murez to discuss her practice and the meaning behind her works throughout Venice. Next, we embarked on our walking tour of Abbot Kinney, stopping to discuss the installations by Murez as well as murals, wheatpastes, stencils and carvings, by some of Los Angeles’ most prominent street artists.”

Sounds like a great tour!

Street Art 2

City Series: Rome

We are excited to announce a new art history course, with instructor Mary Beth Carosello. City Series: Rome is a unique blend of art history and cultural history. Topics covered will include urban design, architecture, artistic movements, and each culture’s impact on today’s world. Classes will also include museum field trips to view key works.

Often in a survey course, the amount of material to be covered means that each topic is dealt with quickly. This class will delve deeply into the rich history of the city, from a variety of different angles.  The first part of the class will look at the city of Rome from its earliest incarnation as an ancient Republic to its development into the capital of a far-reaching empire and its subsequent fall. The second half will explore the “rebirth” of the city in the 1500s looking particularly at the work of Michelangelo and Raphael. The class will conclude with a look at Rome in the 1600s and the dynamic art and architecture created in service of the Counter Reformation.

 

Mary Beth Carosello

Mary Beth Carosello

Mary Beth is one of our most popular instructors. One recent student commented that “As usual, Mary Beth brought enthusiasm and deep knowledge to her subject. I always feel as if I’m living in the time period we discuss…she brings it to life!”

We hope you’ll join instructor Carosello for a fresh look at this historic city!

To enroll: https://www.uclaextension.edu/pages/Course.aspx?reg=258556&qe=true.’

Unknown, Head of Hippokrates, Roman, 2nd century

Unknown, Head of Hippokrates, Roman, 2nd century

Unknown, Statue of Hercules, Roman, 100 - 199

Unknown, Statue of Hercules, Roman, 100 – 199

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