The Beverly Hills Arts and Culture Commission kicked off its first meeting of the year on Jan. 14 by reaffirming its priority to maintain a robust arts program for the City.
Following its recognition of the successful Jan. 12 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the North Canon mural “Thousand Regards/ Shape of Color” by Tomokazu Matsuyama, the Commission spent much of the meeting discussing the slate of artistic opportunities in store for locals and visitors in the coming year.
The Commission enthusiastically agreed to work with the Beverly Hills Historical Society (beverlyhillshistoricalsociety.org) to provide “listening tour” presentations, accessible via one’s smartphone, throughout the City.
“It’s a natural fit, and we want to work with you,” said Commission Vice Chair Carolyn Hiller following a presentation by the Society’s president Phil Savenick.
The Historical Society currently offers two enhanced walking virtual tours on its website; one on Rodeo Drive and its architecture and history and the other on where all the old movie stars lived.
Easily accessible from the website’s homepage, the two walking tours offer route maps, videos, photographs and a bounty of stories. One such story talks about how former famed local Fred Astaire would promptly arrive at the Beverly Hills Post Office daily at 3 p.m. to pick up his mail, and if it was not ready, the Golden Age film star would tap on the floor until it was. “Basically our mandate is to try to entertain in an educational way,” Savenick said. “We have all these assets. We’d love to figure out ways to work with the community.”
Savenick also shared with the Commission how he and local Robbie Anderson, whose great grandmother Margaret Anderson built and owned the Beverly Hills Hotel, were preparing to unveil a holographic rendition of the City-owned sculpture “Celluloid” at the upcoming Beverly Hills artSHOW in May where visitors can create 3-dimensional version of the sculpture on their phone. The sculpture, which rests on the traffic-island at Beverly Drive and Olympic Boulevard, pays homage to the City’s movie stars.
Following Savenick’s presentation, the Commission reaffirmed its commitment to moving forward with the creation of Art Walks brochures, which will feature around 70 art works in the City.
The Commission detailed how its work to rehab “Hymn of Life Tulips” by Yayoi Kusama in Beverly Gardens Park is currently underway.
As far as actually gaining possession of what the Commission characterized as “one of the finest pieces of our art collection” – namely, the original sculpture “Iron Root” from world-renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, the work is still in China. A victim of the tariffs imposed under Section 301 Trade Remedies on China, the City is now being charged $135,000 more to import the sculpture, which represents a 15 percent tariff on the $900,00 purchase price. The Commission confirmed that it had already made its first payment for the artwork, however, noted that City staff had directed the Commission to wait until there was further clarity surround the specific amount of the tariff.
On Dec. 20, 2019, Mayor John Mirisch wrote a letter to Rep. Ted Lieu seeking the Congressman’s help in obtaining a product exclusion from the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
During the Commission meeting, the director of the Ai Weiwei-designed UTA Artist Space (http://utaartistspace.com), which opened in 2018 on Foothill Road in Beverly Hills, shared with the Commission the gallery’s plans for involvement in the upcoming Frieze Los Angeles. The Space’s current exhibition “Emerging Artists Subvert Black Narratives in ‘Disembodiment'” runs through Jan. 25.
Tufenkian Fine Arts (www.tufenkianfinearts.com) director Peter Frank also shared with the Commission that Beverly Hills ceramicist Andrew Frank and contemporary artist Diane Holland would be featured in the Glendale gallery’s upcoming show, “That Layered Look: Theme and Variations.” The opening reception is Jan. 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with the closing reception set for Feb. 23from3p.m.to6p.m.
“This Commission is one of the reasons why I was so excited to apply for my position,” the City’s new Director of Community Services Jenny Rogers told the Commission, marking her second day in the position. “This is just an incredibly exciting and innovative time, arts and culturally, for the City of Beverly Hills.”