Wigs, Masons and Giant Carts: Exploring the Marciano Art Foundation

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It seems like every day LA is opening a new museum that puts the art of our own city and the world on display. The Marciano Art Foundation, which opened this spring in the old Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Mid-City, is the latest and is a sight to behold. Bring the entire family and be delighted and challenged by the grandeur of the historic building and the ever changing works on display. Read on to find out why this space deserves a top spot on your summer to-do list.

“Guess” Where the Art Comes From?
The Marciano Art Foundation was created by Maurice and Paul Marciano, brothers and Guess? co-founders. The space was opened to give the public access to the Marciano Art Collection with rotating, thematic work that focuses predominately on work from the 1990’s until now. The art is from the family collection and also includes commissioned work and site-specific pieces for this spectacular venue.

The collection draws from the work of hundreds of artists and over 1,500 pieces. Your little artistically inclined explorers are sure to gravitate to something in this space. With paintings, murals, sculptures and massive backdrops suspended from the building’s 40 foot ceilings, everyone is sure to find something to feast their eyes and their mind upon.

The Works
While the collection will rotate with time, we say get there as soon as possible. Right now, the family can catch the work of Jim Shaw—an Angeleno himself since the 1970’s—who works in a multitude of medium. His work includes a Wig Museum, which is housed in a flashy “wig emporium” of sorts. Your kids will “wig out” at the array of hair pieces through out the centuries. While they may just soak in the shapes and colors (and get a case of the sillies in the process) you can lead them to think a bit about the symbolism of the wig in history.

Keep walking in to the “International House of Pain,” if your young ones aren’t frightened. The lighting is dim here and there are images that suggest the afterworld. We leave it to your discretion, but the imagery is interesting enough that your little art curators can soak in the work without getting scared. If the dark (literally and figuratively) isn’t their thing, rush through this section to get to a maze-like world with 40 foot backdrops adorned with superhero images suspended from the ceiling.

There’s More Upstairs
Be sure to head up to the upper levels. The mezzanine includes a sparse mural on the wall adorned with LA-centric imagery like parking meters and yoga pants (of course) which makes for a fun game of eye-spy. That leads into the gallery where the massive collection includes paintings, sculptures, textures and colors that will keep everyone asking questions. Be sure to visit the theater in the back of the gallery, which features rotating films from the collection. One you’ve taken in galleries, be sure to take a walk outside and check out the sculpture garden for some fresh air and wiggle releasing.

A Biggest Piece of Art
Besides the art in the building, the building itself is reason enough to visit. The Marciano Art Foundation is housed in the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple built by Millard Sheets in 1961. The space has been renovated but with tall ceilings, wide open space and marble adorned walls it holds onto the original regal energy. Besides that, the MAF has included a Relic Room in the old Masonic Library that displays Masonic paraphernalia that was left behind in the building. Take a look around and absorb the hats, art work and even old theatrical costumes.

The Details: Admission, Parking and a Bite
Admission to the MAF is free, but you need to make a timed reservation here on their website. The space is open Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Free parking in the foundation’s lot is included with your reservation. Just let the guard know that you have a timed reservation. While there is no food allowed in the galleries, the Foundation does have a cafe and gift shop where you can grab a light bite or a souvenir. But if you’re not in the mood to drop cash for your little aficionados, the gift shop is discreetly tucked away and you can rush them out without them being any the wiser.

Families are welcome (and encouraged), but like any art museum, little ones will probably keep you on your toes. Perhaps have the “no touching and walking feet” convo before entering, to remind them that this isn’t a children’s museum. The museum (kindly, but firmly) asks that all kids 12 and younger be within a few feet of an adult at all times. But the space is well worth the care it takes to keep your young art aficionados extra close.

Marciano Art Foundation
4357 Wilshire Blvd.
Online: marcianoartfoundation.org

The Broad, LACMA’s BCAM, Hauser & Wirth; what’s your family’s favorite modern art mecca in LA?

—written and photographed by LeTania Kirkland Smith