Crashing Ashes


Now entering the final month of its four-month stay beside the Santa Monica Pier, the Ashes and Snow exhibit certainly isn’t anything new. The compelling collection of Gregory Colbert’s still and motion photography, housed in its specially designed 56,000-square-foot Nomadic Museum, has been packing in and fascinating patrons since debuting back in January.

Featuring unscripted interactions between humans and a remarkable variety of animals — what the show’s literature refers to as “Colbert’s 21st-century beastiary” — it’s near impossible not to be moved and awed and intrigued by the artist’s harmonious images of man and beast at rest and peace.

Having finally been able to experience it with my wife last weekend, allow me to take you inside and give you the layout and some tips so that you may better enjoy yourself if you go — which you should.

1) Get your tickets ($15 per person; plus the obligatory service chage) ahead of time via the website. We did and were infinitely glad. When we arrived Sunday morning about half an hour after the doors had been opened, the line to buy tickets was easily three times as long as the line to get inside.

2) Get there early. Or get there late. Crowds and parking are an even thornier issue during the meaty part of the day. We parked down at Venice had breakfast at the Sidewalk Cafe and walked up and back.

3) Once inside, it’s pretty much a cattle drive that proceeds down the first corridor, each side of which is lined with still photographs. The drawback is that there isn’t much time to linger at images unless you buck the herd and step out from the forward progress being made. To hasten us along here is also no explanatory text accompanying each image so you’ll often be surrounded by questions and statements like “What animal is that?” or “Is that for real?” or “That looks like a painting!”

4) At the end of the first corridor there is an open space with limited rudimentary seating before a screen that plays a nine-minute film that repeats itself. Incredible footage of people with ocelots and tapirs and kinkajous and storks and such.

5) After this film is done you’ll move to the main section of the exhibit, which houses a larger screen and a better seating capacity to show an amazing 60-minute film that plays over and over and features Asian elephants, whales, raptors, cheetahs, meerkats, Caracals, African wild dogs and much more… parts of which brought tears to my eyes. And yes, that’s Laurence “Don’t Call Me Larry” Fishburne narrating.

6) Moving to the third corridor is a screen the size of the one at the end of the first corridor and another short film with orangutans, saltwater crocodiles, hornbills and such. Beautiful.

7) From there you’ll proceed down the third corridor once again lined with still images to the exit, which lets you out at the gift shop that offers everything from $8 bracelets to $25,000 folios of Colbert’s artistry.

3 thoughts on “Crashing Ashes”

  1. i was surprised at the ammount of large-scale advertising of this event in the downtown jewelry/fashion/warehouse district. it made me want to see it more now that it was advertised in such an unlikely demographic.

  2. Ashes and Snow is a great exhibit and in my opinion one of the best things about it is the setting. The building is awe inspiring and unique with it’s use of shipping containers and carboard tubes to create the main structure and supports. The entire building is built to be disassembled and then reassembeled at the next location, using shipping containers from the local area. I believe the entire show is transported in 4 containers total.

    The “rudimentary seating” is also made from recycled cardboard tubes.

    Here’s a few additional tips:

    ‚Ä¢ As Will mentioned go early or go late, and if possible go during the week. It’s open until 7pm Tuesday – Thursday and Sunday, and 8pm on Friday and Saturday. Closed on Monday. A rainy Friday evening like today would be perfect.

    ‚Ä¢ Don’t go in the middle of the day, especially during the week. Schools get free entry so there will be alot of kids. On the weekend during the day the parking lot will be full of beach goers.

    • In order to maximize your time walk the 2 outer halls first and check out all of the photographs (which are printed on handmade Japanese paper). Then watch the 2 short films at the end of each hall containing the photos. To cap it all off go to center hall to watch the main film. This will allow you to take your time checking out all the prints and then you can sit through as much of the hour long film as you like.

    ‚Ä¢ The parking lot at the pier can be crazy. A good way to go is to park in one of the public lots on Broadway by the 3rd street promande. It’s not too far of a walk and then you can hit up one of the many bars and restaurants on your way to or from the exhibit. If you want the full cheesy tourist effect you can hit up the new Bubba Gumps across the parking lot and then cruise the pier.


  3. After your 3rd picture of some Hindu kid standing with an elephant you’ll “get” the whole concept. The building is the thing. I’m not saying it’s a waste, but it was a little pretentious for my taste. Almost picked up the $25,000 coffee book on the way out (and a keychain).

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