Birds, vibrant colors and sunsets aren’t the first images that come to mind when thinking of the Metro Purple Line Extension. But they soon will be in Beverly Hills, as the dominant themes of a new mural by renowned Japanese contemporary artist Tomokazu Matsuyama.
The work, entitled “Thousand Regards/ Shape of Color,” is Matsuyama’s 80 foot-by 20-foot homage to the City. It will grace the north side of the Metro construction sound wall at N. Canon Drive and Wilshire Boulevard for the next several years. An official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mural is set for Jan. 12 on the 100 block of N. Canon at 1 p.m.
North Canon was reconfigured into a cul-de-sac in 2019, to accommodate ongoing work on the Purple Line Extension and the Wilshire/Rodeo station.
“Not a lot of people were happy about the construction. But once we realized that there had to be a wall there, we wanted to make the best of it. Now we’re going to have something very cool,” Derrick Ontiveros, chair of the NEXT Beverly Hills Committee, told the Courier.
The idea for the mural originated with NEXT Beverly Hills, said Ontiveros. The Committee worked with local businesses as well as the Beverly Hills Arts and Culture Commission on the project, which was fully funded by the City.
The Larchmont Village-based LeBasse Projects was hired to manage the entire process, including artist selection, logistics and implementation.
“It was an extremely formal process, involving NEXT, the Arts and Culture Commission, City Council and lots of local stakeholders,” Beau Basse, Creative Director of LeBasse Projects, told the Courier.
Basse considered several factors in selecting Matsuyama. “We really wanted the artist to be unique to Canon and to Beverly Hills. He [Matsuyama] is a Japanese artist who’s been in New York for 30 years.”
He hadn’t done murals in years, but recently did an important one in New York,” said Basse. Additionally, while the City was in the process of hiring Matsuyama, he was selected to represent Japan in a major installation at Shinjuko Station in Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“We’re definitely catching him at a very exciting time in his career,” said Basse.
Ontiveros agrees that the City is “lucky to have the mural, which will elevate the social and public art here in Beverly Hills.”
Reaction to Matsuyama’s finished product has been favorable from official quarters, as well as members of the public who commented during the installation process in November, said Basse.
“The Arts and Culture Commission is excited to see the mural is finished and has created a beautiful visual for the City of Beverly Hills. We are always looking to bring new art and cultural experiences to the City and the mural exemplifies those efforts,” Arts and Culture Commission Chair Stephanie Vahn told the Courier.
“Thousand Regards/Shape of Color” is described as a color explosion incorporating various shapes. Birds, in particular, are used as a universal symbol of happiness.
Matsuyama is said to be influenced by Japanese art from the Edo and Meiji eras, classical Greek and Roman statuary, French Renaissance painting and postwar contemporary art.
“All of his work is about juxtaposition of culture, East and West, historical versus contemporary,” said Basse.
As for whether the mural will survive once the wall comes down, Basse isn’t hopeful. “It’s affixed to walls that belong to Metro. When it’s time to go away, we’ll lose it. Sometimes, there’s a joy that must end.”