Bankruptcy, sale leave Lenin statue homeless

| June 29, 2017 | 3 Comments

LENIN’S FUTURE was in doubt as the Chronicle went to press.

The future of the towering chrome sculpture of Lenin’s head at 400 S. La Brea Ave. is in limbo, as Ace Museum, which has been renting space in the building that the bust fronts, has been evicted.

The museum actually never did open but served as a storage facility and, at the corner of 4th and La Brea, was where the 20-foot-tall statue of the former Socialist revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin, stood for many years.

Created in 2008 by Chinese artists and brothers Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang, a flurry of activity erupted after they posted on Facebook June 11 that the La Brea building’s owner told them to move the piece in 10 days.

“It is impossible to send the sculpture back to Beijing,” they wrote on Facebook, “because of the censorship of China customs. We need more time to arrange the next exhibition grounds for it. We need more time to move the sculpture.”

Attorney Stephen Goldberg, who represents the Gao brothers, said he is working with them and the landlord, “who wants to remodel” the buildling, a former General Motors car dealership.

The artists are “actively working” to find Lenin a home, hopefully in Southern California, Goldberg said.

According to the trustee for Ace Gallery, at 5514 Wilshire Blvd., a separate corporate entity from Ace Museum, “the (400 S. La Brea) building owner leased the property to a nonprofit run by Douglas Chrismas, called Ace Museum.

“That entity (Ace Museum) has been evicted, for nonpayment of rent, and the building owner is in the process of implementing its own plans for the building, the specifics of which we have not learned.”

The trustee, Carolyn Dye, acting for Ace Gallery plan agent Sam Leslie, the debtor in post-bankruptcy proceedings, said moving the sculpture is a large project involving deconstructing the work and moving it out with a crane.

Drew Hammond, consulting exhibitions director for Ace Gallery, said he has been trying to find a home for the statue on a pro bono basis to no avail. Art transportation companies require several weeks notice, and dealers, collectors and heads of institutions are hard to reach as most have been at the international Art Basel gathering in Switzerland, he explained.

“I am trying to help the artists find a temporary home for the work until they manage to find a buyer… I didn’t want to see it fall in the hands of the landlord and be auctioned off,” he explained.

The bust of the Russian dictator’s head is made of fragmented pieces, a nod to his broken legacy. A tiny figure sits on his head, in a balancing act, in the sculpture’s apt and official title, “Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head.”

“This sculpture has been considered one of L.A.’s most important cultural icons since it was exhibited in front of Ace Museum in 2011,” the brothers wrote on Facebook. “There are people taking pictures with it every day… We don’t like to think Los Angeles is the city which kills the donkey after it has done its job at the mill.”

Shipping costs back to Asia would be prohibitive which is another reason why the brothers aim to find a local venue for the sculpture. Their contact is via Hua Gallery in London.

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