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The return of a sexist sculpture is wrecking a downtown Palm Springs redevelopment plan. Happy Saturday! Miranda on Essential Arts this week. Arts editor Craig Nakano will catch you up on the week that was, but first let me take you out to the desert. In , the city of Palm Springs got serious about moving forward on a downtown redevelopment project that, after decades of planning, would put the local art museum and its Midcentury Modern architectural de at the very heart of the ambitious overhaul.

Then, during a City Council Zoom meeting last November, all five councilmembers turned heel and summarily trashed the plan. Without so much as a mention of the long-established redevelopment goal, which is on the brink of completion, the City Council instead unanimously agreed to plant a vulgar, misogynistic statue made by a hack artist smack in the middle of the mix.

The decision could not have been worse. The foot-tall colossus shows s movie star Marilyn Monroe , legs splayed, with her skirt blowing up around her waist to expose her panty-clad backside. You would think that the national movement against sexual violence, which exploded as the crimes committed against actors by a powerful Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein , were revealed three years ago, had never happened.

Stewart Williams in , is emblematic of the Midcentury Modern architecture now synonymous internationally with the desert enclave. The statue is slated for installation late next month. Incredibly, MeToo Marilyn, her body posed tilting slightly forward, will even be positioned to moon the museum. How this travesty came to pass is hard to say. The switch was the brainchild of Palm Springs Resorts , businesspeople in the hotel and restaurant industry who lobby the city on tourism issues.

They first brought the statue to town in , where it stood in a vacant downtown lot for two years, lighting up social media. Last year they petitioned the city to allow them to bring it back and install it in the center of that critically important redevelopment zone. When the council agreed, P. Resorts bought the thing — reportedly for a million dollars. A decade later, the Great Recession hit the city especially hard, with tourism s slumping and real estate values plummeting.

Recovery lagged badly. Community input was sought on earlier downtown plans, and des were revised. By , a smart plan was in place for the vicinity of the now-demolished mall. Building on a idea, it called for an open street to create a view corridor leading two short blocks due west, from heavily pedestrian Palm Canyon Drive to the Palm Springs Art Museum, with the magnificent San Jacinto mountains as an imposing backdrop. A two-acre public park, deed by able landscape architect Mark Rios , responsible for the successful renovation of the Music Center Plaza and Grand Park in front of City Hall in Los Angeles, is under construction adjacent to the street.

Completion is expected by August. Modernism Week, an architecture and de festival, has grown from a modest launch for a few hundred people into an annual day extravaganza with attendance now surpassing , How important is the view corridor? Then, the tourism lobbyists struck. An early Rios park rendering shows MeToo Marilyn tucked away in the corner farthest from the museum and looking south, her backside facing a parking garage.

In the other direction, departing museum visitors will be greeted by her exposed behind as they descend the stairs and head into town. Photoshopped mockups made to scale by opponents of the plan demonstrate the erasure. Virtually none of this was discussed during the November Zoom meeting. It was also simply assumed that public rather than private land would be an ideal location.

Not a single councilmember expressed unabashed enthusiasm for the statue before unanimously supporting the new location. Neither the council nor a remarkably shoddy background staff report even mentions the guiding document being upended by the plan. Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber. Lisa Middleton , the councilmember in whose district the behemoth will be erected, said the art was not to her taste, but she was willing to give it a shot.

Everyone enjoys a hobby, but his sculpture is unrepresented in any ificant museum collections. Expert consensus regards him as an artist of zero achievement. No one at the art museum next door was consulted for the City Council staff report, although the sculpture would be its new neighbor. The current museum director, Louis Grachos , and multiple former directors and curators have publicly registered horror.

Grachos has reed , effective this summer, but has not identified the controversy as a cause. An answer that would be hard to wave away in their report? The city bent over backward to accommodate the awful scheme, even as it ignored established redevelopment goals and winced at the offending sculpture. My simple answer: The tourism lobby wanted it. Tourism is fundamental to the Palm Springs economy. According to the local convention and visitors bureau, it is the largest single employer in the area. The scourge of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter looms in the background.

The leap from image proliferation on social media to a definable increase in tourism was made — even though not a shred of hard data backs up the claim. It had been a recent scandal in Chicago, where it was eventually run out of town. That was juxtaposed with rising tourism figures in subsequent years. What is wrong with Palm Springs? The translation of social media clicks into tourism dollars, however, is simply embraced as an article of faith by the civic powers that be.

The country has changed meaningfully since the statue was first here nearly a decade ago. As Confederate monuments come down across the country, a blatantly sexist sculpture snickering at women in general — and a tragic Hollywood actor in particular — is unlikely to be widely cheered as it goes up in a tourist town.

Clothing deer Trina Turk and architecture preservationist Chris Menrad are among locals who have banded together to form the Committee to Relocate Marilyn. A GoFundMe was launched to hire a lawyer to sue the city and stop the project. No suit has yet been filed, but it is expected to focus on claims of faulty city processes around the street closure where the statue will stand. Best would be not installing the shameful misogynist lark anywhere at all. But stopping it on Museum Way is essential. The grinding yearlong COVID pandemic seems finally to be pointed in the direction of winding down, but if the statue goes up, I plan to remain socially distant.

More than 10 major institutions have flung open their doors, and more than a dozen have confirmed reopening dates in the weeks to come. Among the first biggies out of the gate here in L. The beloved Ojai Music Festival , which after 74 years had to cancel for the first time in , will be back.

By postponing from June to September , Jessica Gelt reports, the festival buys more time for concert-goers to get vaccinated — and for organizers to line up talent. The outdoor art biennial known as Desert X is moving forward, but not with a smoke installation by Judy Chicago. Chicago says the brouhaha over the work also has jeopardized her piece for the de Young museum in San Francisco. As for the rest of Desert X, The Times review says it feels thin. Not until summer. When — and how — should live theater in L.

Under what circumstances, and with what new rules? Tell us what you think. Forget the Grammys and Academy Awards nominations. It was a big week for architecture, and Carolina A. It also awards individuals, Miranda says, at a time when more of us recognize architecture as a collaborative field.

You can help the effort here. Listings coordinator Matt Cooper compiled 18 bits of culture for your viewing consideration this weekend, led by an operatic tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And in a week marked by the Atlanta-area killings of eight people , six of whom were of Asian descent, how those lives are honored and how the violence is condemned are questions permeating seemingly every corner of the culture. The rising incidents of hate against Asian Americans have generated shock and outrage among some, but to others — namely Asian Americans themselves — this is nothing new.

Discrimination and violence have long been painful realities of the American immigrant experience. Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism he was a finalist for the prize in , and All Sections.

About Us. B2B Publishing. Business Visionaries. Hot Property. Times Events. Times Store. Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. By Christopher Knight Art Critic. Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most.

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