The story of Art Here and Now (AHAN): Studio Forum began about 50 years ago, albeit under a different name. In the 1960s, a few years before LACMA was formally established as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire and Fairfax, the museum hosted the Young Talent Award, which supported artists financially, and, in return, LACMA was able to acquire important works for its fledging collection of contemporary art. Today, AHAN comprises dynamic members who are philanthropists, collectors, and enthusiasts who are interested in contemporary art in Los Angeles. The group focuses on young local artists, and members have an opportunity through AHAN to engage not only with artists, but also to participate in an insider's view of the curatorial process with LACMA curators.
Curators Rita Gonzalez and Christine Y. Kim, along with curatorial assistant Nancy Meyer asked AHAN members Dan Avchen, Brian and Julie Biel, Donna Kolb, Frank Masi, and Charlie Pohlad about involvement with the group. This spring, the 38 members of AHAN championed the acquisition of a total of seven artworks by five artists. The objects are illustrated within the post below.
What is the main draw for you as a member of AHAN: Studio Forum?
Dan Avchen: How cool is it to be involved in how and what a great art museum chooses to represent its look into the future? I would say that’s number one why I wanted to get involved in AHAN: Studio Forum. Now that I’m a member, I’m really attracted to the camaraderie with other collectors who are also interested in emerging artists. L.A. is such a magnet for young talent, so it’s a most exciting time to participate.
Donna Kolb: The studio visits. Seeing and hearing from the artist in their everyday environment allows us to peek behind the curtain and see firsthand how the work is made. Being in the physical space, looking at works in progress up close, asking questions, and paying attention to how the artist presents him/herself add a layer of appreciation that enriches and informs our discussion at the Studio Forum.
Charlie Pohlad: I relish any opportunity to visit and engage with LACMA, its collection, programs, curators, staff, etc. Therefore, being a part of AHAN is a bit of a no-brainer. The insight, access, and enjoyment I believe that we all derive from our membership in AHAN is invaluable.
What was the most interesting moment for you during the last round of AHAN: Studio Forum visits and/or the discussion forum?
Dan Avchen: The studio visits were all amazing. We saw a great variety of artists, and each and every one was inspiring, as was hearing them talk about the meaning behind their work. I was also most taken with hearing the curators so eloquently talk about each artist’s body of work. But, the most exciting moment, frankly, was when the curators chose artists I had either already collected or seriously considered. That was reassuring.
Brian and Julie Biel: Probably Lisa Williamson’s studio. We were aware her work but had not encountered it in person. It was great to see the craftsmanship and clarity of her production. Those works have an interesting relationship to the history of sculpture in their seemingly playful negotiation between a representational reference with abstract form.
Frank Masi: The AHAN discussion forum. The high degree of insight and level of thoughtfulness that each Studio Forum member brought to the table during discussions made me proud to be a part of that group.
What do you see as your primary role as a supporter/advocate of LACMA, and how does AHAN: Studio Forum allow you to do that?
Brian and Julie Biel: The range of work being produced today is highly varied, and the field of collecting highly competitive. We see our contribution to the critical assessment of work in collaboration with the curators as an important part of identifying objects that are relevant to our cultural moment. In doing so, we can contribute to LACMA by bringing work to the collection that has yet to enter the elevated ranges of the market.
Donna Kolb: I see my primary role as a supporter/advocate of LACMA as intertwined with supporting the artist. AHAN introduces us to a wide range of emerging L.A. artists each year, opening up new opportunities to support someone new.
Charlie Pohlad: As an advocate of LACMA—and museums in general—my personal goal is to get more people exposed to and involved in the museum. Whether by simply visiting the museum or becoming involved in its many offerings, I love seeing new people take advantage of what LACMA has to offer. I think it is important that the work we acquire through AHAN is all done by artists living in the Los Angeles area; it adds an important layer of connection between those of us who call L.A., and the museum, home. On a more personal level, it has been a pleasure to share my experience in AHAN with family, friends, and others in our community, in the hopes that they may stop by to see our recent acquisitions, or even join the group as well.