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Frank Gehry's 'Bilbao effect' and The Broad Museum's ugly, sexy robot doll




The Louis Vuitton Foundation art museum and cultural center in Paris was designed by Frank Gehry. The 100-million-euro building, with billowing glass casing and 11 gallery spaces, has been compared to an iceberg or giant sailboat and took more than a decade to make.
The Louis Vuitton Foundation art museum and cultural center in Paris was designed by Frank Gehry. The 100-million-euro building, with billowing glass casing and 11 gallery spaces, has been compared to an iceberg or giant sailboat and took more than a decade to make.
Christophe Ena/AP

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L.A. architect Frank Gehry is having a major museum moment. At the age of 85 he has just opened Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and the Biomuseo in Panama, and he's been hired to design the expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  So how did Gehry become the go-to architect for museum design?

In a word...Bilbao.

Jori Finkel, who writes about visual art for The New York Times and The Art Newsletter, tells The Frame that there's even a phrase for this — "the Bilbao effect." When Gehry designed the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, he transformed that sleepy Spanish town from a place people "used to mispronounce to a major destination for art." And his sailboat-inspired undulating building — a prelude to Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles — proposed a radical departure for museum design.

Finkel says that Gehry rejects the notion that a museum should be a  a white cube and neutral like museums have traditionally been. She says Gehry questions whether any space is neutral: "And don't artists today want something with some character to work within and against?"

The Broad Museum's ugly, sexy robot doll

Meanwhile, The Broad Museum — which, incidentally, is not being designed by Gehry — has announced it will finally open in the fall of 2015. And the benefactors, L.A. art collectors and philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, have been adding to their collection in anticipation of the opening.

Their latest acquisition is Jordan Wolfson's "Female Figure" (2014). It's a creepy, sexy, life-size robot doll that was all the rage this past spring in New York when it was on display at the David Zwirner Gallery.

Finkel says that perhaps what is most creepy about the doll is its way of interacting with the viewer: "There is motion detection software implanted in her forehead, so she can follow your gaze through the room. You walk into a room with her and you're watching her and she's watching you."

Here's a video of Jordan Wolfson's Female Figure in action:

The Broad Museum will house the couple's art collection, which includes work by major artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. They have quite a few Jeff Koons sculptures and hundreds of Cindy Sherman photographs. But Finkel says the acquisition of Wolfson's piece signals a different direction.

Remember, this used to be a private collection — painting and sculpture they could live with. Even the Koons pieces they had in their house. So now that they have a museum building going up, they're thinking about how to attract public attention. They don't want spill-over traffic from MOCA and Disney Hall. They want this to be a destination museum with destination art work that people would line-up to see.

And the pricing model can't be beat: Admission to the museum will be free.

 



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