Having transformed bluejeans into high fashion, Maurice and Paul
Marciano are seeking to remake their own legacies as patrons and
collectors of contemporary art with a museum in Los Angeles.
The Guess clothing headquarters downtown here -- once a humble
distribution center, where stonewashed jeans were shipped around the
country -- looks more like an art gallery these days. Paintings by
luminaries like Sterling Ruby and Carroll Dunham hang beside the
famously sexy Guess billboard ads. And Mr. Ruby even stopped by to
install a sculpture personally.
There is much, much more art at the nearby homes of Maurice and
Paul Marciano, two of the four brothers who founded Guess in 1981.
After several years of frenzied buying, they have run out of space
to display their growing art collections. "A lot of art we have in
storage," Maurice Marciano said, laughing and shaking his head,
"which is not the best thing at all, definitely not what you want."
Having transformed workaday denim bluejeans into must-have items
of high fashion at Guess, Maurice and Paul Marciano are now seeking
to remake their own legacies as pre-eminent patrons and aggressive
collectors of contemporary art.
Last month, the Maurice and Paul Marciano Art Foundation paid $8
million to buy an opulent former Masonic temple on Wilshire
Boulevard, which they plan to turn into a private museum. In
addition to housing their collection, Maurice Marciano said the
museum would also host exhibitions by local artists with the hope
that they will design work especially for this space. And work space
may be created for an artist in residence.
"There is such a vibrant, vibrant art community in L.A., with so
many artists living here," Mr. Marciano added. "Artists who would
not necessarily have a big exhibition at a well-established museum.
That really inspired us to have a space where we could give a forum
to these young artists to exhibit their art."
With some of the top art schools in the country, a forgiving
climate, decent rents and a quality of light that has enticed
creative types for decades, Los Angeles has in recent years become a
hub for young artists.
The museum is a declaration of the brothers' growing ambition and
influence in the city's art scene -- a bold step for the family,
which has shunned the limelight in recent years (Paul Marciano would
not speak for this article), following an ugly fight with investors
over control of Guess in the 1980s and prolonged public criticism of
the company's labor practices in the 1990s.
"Los Angeles has this amazing creative energy right now, and
Maurice's project is going to be part of it," said Jeffrey Deitch,
who recently resigned as the director of the Museum of Contemporary
Art here. "I think this will become one of the most important spaces
for contemporary art in the whole country. This is making a big
statement about our time."
Certainly, the space will be a striking addition to the
contemporary art landscape in Los Angeles. The Masonic temple was
designed by Millard Sheets, the Southern California architect and
muralist. It served the Masons from 1961 to 1994 and has been on and
off the real estate market since. The brothers hope it can be open
within 18 months, once they have finished renovating the first floor
of the building, which fell into disrepair.
But who will be able to visit the Marciano museum, and when,
remains unclear. At least initially, Maurice Marciano said, it will
not be open to the public daily, which would require a sizable
staff. Instead, he said, the museum might be open by appointment.
Despite general enthusiasm here about the prospect of another
major contemporary art space, several artists and collectors
expressed concern about the growing prevalence of private
institutions, which are harder for the public to access.
"I think it's great; or potentially great," John Baldessari, an
artist and a former teacher at the University of California at Los
Angeles, said of the project. …