Newly placed sculptures cast shadows onto stalled evening traffic Wednesday on Santa Monica Boulevard. With live music as a backdrop, city officials unveiled , the latest installment in West Hollywood’s temporary art program.
Located on the grassy median between Doheny and Altmont drives, officials hope the public art will serve as a striking sight for drivers and pedestrians alike.
“When a new work goes in, suddenly the whole area looks different,” said Andrew Campbell, the city's cultural affairs administrator.
Elemental is the fruit of a collaboration between West Hollywood and the Sculpture Foundation, an organization that works to bring sculptures into public spaces.
The foundation handpicked the seven works from its collection, said director Paula Stoeke, also the curator of the exhibit. On loan to West Hollywood for one year, the pieces are valued at a total of $50 million, Stoeke said.
“It looks like a museum,” said David Eichman, chair of the West Hollywood Transportation Commission, admiring a steel portal by Emilie Benes Brzezinski.
He recalled with a laugh the first piece of art to be placed between Doheny and Altmont, which he called an “orange monstrosity."
Curators deliberately chose organic, earthy colors that play off the surrounding buildings, Campbell said. With the exception of one more colorful piece, all of the works are toned a deep chocolate brown.
Mayor John Duran came by to walk the dirt path and view the sculptures. His favorite was a bronze piece by Mike Gyampo, called Matters of the Moment, adding that it reminded him of Rodin’s The Thinker.
“Human form in the abstract,” Duran said, thoughtfully.
Public art goes hand-in-hand with the city’s goals to increase pedestrian friendliness and a reputation for West Hollywood as a cultural center. Tony Clark, an art curator in Los Angeles, said the sculptures on display stand up to any fine sculpture in Japan.
“For Weho, this says, ‘This is the grand welcome to our city,' ” Clark said.
Public art consultant Rebecca Ansert loved Andrew Rogers’ Flora Exemplar piece, which appeared to be reaching tendrils up into the fading afternoon sky.
“It’s environmental,” she said. “I love how it looks like it’s closing in on itself.”
Duran said Weho is looking to double the number of art structures in the city. Although conversions are under way, no plan is yet in place to that effect, said Dallas Dishman, a member of the West Hollywood Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission.
The Art on the Outside Program typically receives between $65,000 and $85,000 a year, Campbell said. Funds are drawn through an ordinance that requires contributions from developers, rather than taxpayer money.
Duran said he wants to see that amount boosted. “They need more money,” he said.