Lacma nears deal on Watts Towers project

The contemporary art museum will draw up a long-term plan for the site's restoration and preservation

Watts Towers built by artist Simon Rodia in his backyard over 30 years (Photo: flickr user mistersmed/nils gore)

The ink is nearly dry on a $150,000 deal for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) to oversee the restoration and preservation of the city's Watts Towers. Funding for the year-long project will come from Los Angeles's department of cultural affairs. During that time the museum will draw up costs for the long-term conservation of the Simon Rodia-built towers, suggest potential funders and enlist the help of other local institutions, including the Getty Museum and the California African American Museum.

Director of Lacma's conservation department, Mark Gilberg, aims to take a more holistic approach to conservation efforts, which up until now have been short-term. “We are rethinking procedures and adopting ones that will be more proactive than reactive,” says Gilberg. Initial delays regarding insurance concerns have been resolved with the promise that Lacma will not be financially responsible for any gross negligence while working on the towers.

The decision to recruit the museum comes amidst a major budget shakedown across the state, which has resulted in slashed funding to nearly every sector. The state-owned Watts Towers “are in a situation where they are fighting a battle all the time,” explains Lacma spokeswoman, Barbara Pflaumer. Last year, before Los Angeles's municipal budget was cut, the offer for Lacma's conservation expertise was $300,000. Olga Garay, the head of the city's department of cultural affairs, has reportedly put the total restoration costs at $5m.

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26 Nov 13
19:27 CET


What will happen to Watts Towers? LACMA has begun scaling back on the project, and is slated to run out of funding by the summer of 2014.

10 Feb 11
14:49 CET


Since 1975 the City of Los Angles has borne the weight of Watts Towers display and art conservation, They fell far short, although forced to repair damages from a set of large earthquakes, including the 1994 Northridge biggie that caused about $2,1M damages to the tall towers and thousands of smaller sculptures. . LACMA is a much more able organization and should do better for the exciting Watts Towers! As a volunteer (graduate) engineer for the city since 1959, I hope LACMA can do it! Bud Goldstone, author, engineer.

24 Dec 10
16:21 CET


Lacma is not a "contemporary art museum" but an encyclopedic museum with collections of all sorts. The contemporary museum in Los Angeles is MOCA.

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