Dutch Master Pizza Lament: A Long, Cheesy Essay on the Redesign of the LACMA Campus

The walkway to the LACMA Cafe as part of “Spray Paint LACMA Revisited.” Photo by Louis Jacinto. Used with permission.

Four buildings on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s campus are being razed to make way for a new, controversial building by Swiss minimalist architect Peter Zumthor.

Written by Mat Gleason of Coagula

Someone posted a link to the LA Times article about the bulldozing of the old LACMA campus. It is in full swing. I don’t want to read the article, I don’t want to link to the article, I don’t want to see the pictures. I saw one and it made me angry and it made me sad. And I wanted to “LIKE” the post but should I pick an angry emoji or a crying emoji?

I finally chose the crying emoji. The building being demolished was the cafeteria. How many meals did I have there? I don’t know, realistically maybe fifteen. Twenty? Probably not that many really…was the food memorable? No. Not terrible, but nothing amazing. But who was I with when I ate there? Ah, you see, you go to the museum with somebody special. And you go with them again and it is special, and then you are there with someone else and it adds to the layers, and then you are in a room with a painting that was around in 1899 or 1675, and understand the layers that add up to life, and each time you visit the cafeteria you add someone to that special list, that layering that lives on.

Some of them you will never speak to again, and others will never speak to you again, and you might never think of the hamburger you had that day, or the juice, or me–I stopped drinking, but I remember the Heineken, thinking I was on top of the world with Rembrandt and Pollock and a beer, a buzz, and a pretty date, and looking back I was almost homeless, teetering on madness, really abusing my body and making bad choices and involving others in this hurricane. And yet, when I walked into the peace of that cafeteria and grabbed a tray, fifteen years after leaving all that behind, it seemed in memory as peaceful as any Dutch portrait of the merchant class immortalized by Rembrandt on a wall a few yards away from the polished tabletops of the eatery.

And now those walls are gone, and I am sure the next cafe there will be fine, but I will have to pace out in steps where the cafe was on that LACMA campus when they finish all their shit seven or twenty years from now (don’t hold yer breath–it is gonna be a while). I will look at the proximity to the one old building left and recall where the Bing Theater was and walk to that point in space, in time, on earth and I will stand there with my arms folded. Some kids will be walking by and I will say, “There was a stage right here and I gave a talk right here, to a big audience. I interviewed a famous artist on this spot where there was a stage many years ago. I was on a panel discussion too, right here, a few years before that, and I had a slice of pizza just over there with my mom while I told her I was going to be a famous artist with work on the walls here at the museum, and she at least smiled. I made her smile!”

And the cheese on that pizza was as cheesy as what I am writing now, and what I plan to tell those passersby if they stop to listen, and if I live long enough to see it all done…and if I don’t, the Rembrandt portraits will let you know if my mom was still smiling after lunch, you can ask them, they will probably still be there, no matter how weird the designs will be in the new galleries of the new building. Ask them if I should have stuck with painting, ask them what my mother really wanted me of make of my life. Ask them, they’ll be quick to chat with just their eyes. They will tell it all like it is, and like it was, they know–they were there and I’m not the only one who remembers random shit.

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