Serenity at LACMA’s Japanese Pavilion

jappav2LACMA’s Pavilion for Japanese Art opened in 1988 and has always had a curious relationship with the rest of the museum’s campus. Set at the eastern edge of the LACMA complex, it’s the furthest point from the new Broad Museum as is possible, in distance as well as temperament. While the Broad oozes late 20th century ego and brash, artist-as-star iconoclasm, the Japanese Pavilion is a humble setting that allows for nuance and subtlety; it honors the viewer as much as the artist.

Designed by architect Bruce Goff, it is a weird fusion of Art Deco and early 1980s shopping mall with a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in NYC. A clear plexiglass-walled catwalk spirals up through the interior atrium to different levels of seemingly secluded small galleries where examples from the Edo, Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods, as well as more recent pieces, are displayed in small alcove settings. The top level has sculpture, ceramics and decorative objects in an open space with a high ceiling, the center of which has an opening letting in natural light. The interior perimeter is lined with Shoji screens that bathe the interior in soft diffused light.

On Easter Sunday, the entire building seemed like the quietest. most peaceful place in Los Angeles.

Interior photos: CP; exterior photo: Chad K/Wikipedia Commons

3 thoughts on “Serenity at LACMA’s Japanese Pavilion”

  1. It’s my favorite part of LACMA….for so many reasons. There’s a great old book, Japanese Homes & Their Surroundings…I think the author’s name is Morse…(now republished by Dover). Great introduction to such things, and it will give you an ever greater appreciation of this museum. I love the netsuke gallery when I need to slow down…taking the time to examine and enjoy the details of just one piece…

  2. Wow, I forgot this place existed. Thank you Chal! It’s been one of my favorite places in LA for a long time–and then got lost to memory. You’re resurrected it!

  3. My favourite building at LACMA. I was talking with some curatorial/programming folks at LACMA about the new buildings and the old buildings, and I was surprised to hear that the oddball Japanese Pavilion is well loved by everyone. I’ve spent a lot of time in the netsuke room downstairs.

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