|Edward Ruscha envisions the destruction of a prominent museum in his fatalistic painting The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire. On the occasion of this painting's first exhibition, at the Irving Blum Gallery in Los Angeles in 1968, Ruscha announced via telegram that the fire marshal would be on hand to see "the most controversial painting to be shown in Los Angeles in our time." The painting was exhibited behind a velvet rope, as if to hold back an angry crowd. Perhaps a response to the unpopular and unfriendly building designed in 1964 by William Pereira, the painting also spoke to an uproarious period in which artists felt increasingly alienated from cultural institutions.
The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire 1965-66.
Oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 133 1/2" (135.9 x 339.1 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1972. Photo: Lee Stalsworth, courtesy Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.