The crowd during the Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980 opening. (Ryan Miller / WireImage / September 21, 2012)

This time last year, the Southern California art world was poised to open an unprecedented set of exhibitions: Pacific Standard Time, the $10-million Getty-funded initiative consisting of some 65 museum shows exploring the region’s art post-World War II.

The project’s organizers identified a handful of goals: encouraging scholarship about Southern California art history, preserving related archives, raising L.A’s profile as a cultural capital, stimulating cultural tourism and boosting museum attendance.

So what did it actually achieve?

On most counts, the project has been considered a fruitful and even enviable model for a regionwide arts collaboration. The exhibitions at museums from San Diego to Santa Barbara, each exploring a different facet of Southern California art history from 1945 to 1980, did draw international art-world attention and media coverage, from a special issue of Art in America magazine to reviews in German newspapers.

Several critics and curators have said that because of PST, textbook accounts of 20th century art history, which tend to be rich with innovations by New York artists but thin on their L.A. contemporaries, will need to be rewritten.

As Helen Molesworth, the chief curator of Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, put it, “The shows made such a strong case for some [California] artists that you just can’t leave them out anymore.”


Jori Finkel
Los Angeles Times