The House the Resnicks Built
By Scott Huver
FROM LEFT: The newly constructed Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion at LACMA; The pavilion’s light-filled interior; Stewart and Lynda Resnick (BELOW)
To the local community, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion is a spectacular addition to LA’s cultural landscape, the single largest purpose-built, naturally lit museum space on the planet and—as designed by Renzo Piano—as stunning a piece of art as the works it will house.
But to benefactor Lynda Resnick, the arts patron who—along with her husband, Stewart—donated the substantial funds for its creation ($45 million for the structure itself; they have also promised $10 million worth of art to populate it), the glass-and-stone pavilion that bears their name means even more: “This is the fulfillment of a great dream,” she says, “to see this institution continue to grow and become important and relevant to the citizens of the city.”
“There isn’t a great exhibition space anywhere in LA, so the building will be that,” says Resnick, a LACMA trustee and chair of its acquisitions committee. “It’s a perfect place for displaying art. We won’t have to tear apart the permanent exhibitions anymore to put in temporary exhibitions like we used to—we actually have a space that’s dedicated to that.”
The couple were lauded for the enormity of their gift to LACMA, but “it wasn’t the sort of thing that happened overnight,” says Resnick. They initially planned to fund a smaller, less significant addition, but were wowed by the ambitious vision of LACMA CEO and director Michael Govan. “He really had this dream of creating the greatest exhibition hall in America. We were happy to up our pledge.”
Resnick’s equally ecstatic about the finished product. “It’s lyrically beautiful, just fabulous,” she says, marveling at the splendors of the natural lighting scheme. “A 2,000-year-old man would look like a bar mitzvah boy in that building, the lighting is so flattering. It’s got an ethereal quality that’s unbelievable.”
A trio of inaugural exhibitions debut in the pavilion this month: “Eye for the Sensual: Selections from the Resnick Collection”; “Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico,” the first West Coast presentation of works from Mexico’s earliest civilization; and “Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915,” which features LACMA’s recently acquired collection of European garments and accessories.
Resnick says she’s humbled by the lasting impact she believes the landmark showplace bearing their names will have. “The legacy is merely that we’ve created a place for the greatest expression of mankind to be shown throughout the ages,” she says. “It’s a meeting place for the people of Los Angeles, all the divergent cultures that come together—that’s the legacy. We are only as good as the museum itself.” And the pavilion is not likely to be the Resnicks’ final gift to the local art world. “Eventually we have to give all the pictures and objects away because I can’t take them with me—or so I’ve been told,” she laughs. “The jury is still out.” 5905 Wilshire Blvd., LA; lacma.org
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALEXANDER VERTIKOFF (PAVILION EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR); PAT YORK (RESNICKS)