Archive for April 2009

The Annenberg Space for Photography – Not a Museum!

Posted by Robert Weitz on April 24, 2009 10:28 AM

We have a new neighborhood community center! It’s not what you are imagining—it doesn’t have basketball hoops or a pool. And while the councilman who brokered the deal, the developer and the Annenberg Foundation would probably like you to imagine that The Annenberg Space for Photography serves a wide range of citizens, it is smack dab in the middle of “the land of lawyers, CPAs and bankers” called Century City.

The Annenberg Space for Photography

That complaint out of the way, I really love the fact that I can walk over to this incredible exhibition space for photography, take in a show, snap a few pictures and be back in time for tea! I think the building is beautiful. It is sited in horizontal juxtaposition to the now almost stately twin Century Plaza Towers. (The towers are short stubby cousins of the World Trade Center designed by Minoru Yamasaki.)

Designed by AECOM Design (formerly DMJM Design) the building is, in my opinion, a “rare bird.” It is a singularly-conceived modernist building in the style of Mies at IIT, but detailed and built in a way that could only be done in the 21st century. I was stunned by the building’s grace and presence, and was really taken with its architectural integrity and brilliant siting.

Somehow the internal space is a little less successful, although I applaud the spirit of the thing. The obvious metaphor for the interior is wrapped up in the workings of the camera optics, but I think the interior team forced the issue. The point of the “parti,” I would assume, is to provide many opportunities to live with and spend time with photographic images.

The problem for many photography exhibitions and galleries is that collections most often exceed the size of available wall space. Using various digital playback devices, the “space” (not a museum) offers some wonderfully rich opportunities to see lot of digital images. The “rotunda” of the space features super high-res 14’ x 7’ 4k screens that offer an engaging way to see photography.

Beyond the amazing digital presentation in the rotunda, there are some real misses. There is precious little space for looking at actual photographs, and the entry has a west facing window wall that is cooking and bleaching out the photos during the midday. They have attempted to use a solar shade, but the result is hot and glary to say the least.

Also, we all had a good laugh over the Microsoft Surface 30-inch table monitors. It’s great for seeing how collection works in ensemble, but the resolution is awful, and what’s worse is that it is bleached out by the sun problem.

The Annenberg Space for Photography, which opened on March 27, is the brainchild of a real photography lover, Wallis Annenberg, and IMO a great idea. Maybe they will fix some of the shortcomings, and even if they don’t, it’s still a wonderful place to visit often.

I love the fact that they have created a bridge between the analog and digital worlds. Unfortunately, the analog got short-changed, which is a shame since no matter what, you can’t capture the full nature of a print digitally and there in lies the value of displaying the analog photos in a more careful and thought-out way.

Check out the inaugural exhibit “L8S ANG3LES,” featuring 11 top-notch LA photographers, through June 28, 2009. Admission is free.