Exclusive: Artist Enrique Martínez Celaya’s Cultural Guide to Los Angeles
The Wende Museum
Enrique Martinez Celaya was born in Cuba at a time when the revolution was but a decade old, and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) just a couple of years behind. Tensions with America were still worryingly heightened.
It was perhaps that he arrived in the world into such harrowing circumstances (his family moved to Madrid in 1972) that eventually inspired him to particularly impressive levels of achievement, shifting seemingly effortlessly from scientist to philosopher, along the way acquiring such impressive academic titles as: Visiting Presidential Professor in the history of art at University of Nebraska (2007–2010); Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College (2014–present); Roth Family Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth (2016-2017); and Provost Professor of Humanities and Arts at USC (2017–present).
He also happens to be an accomplished and collected painter and sculptor, whose work is now included in the permanent collections at such exalted cultural institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig. He’s also written several scholarly books, including 2015’s On Art and Mindfulness: Notes from the Anderson Ranch, where he offers his singularly illuminating views on the process of making art.
Most fascinatingly, he actually sees his visual output as sharing philosophical and cultural ground more with literature than perhaps any particular genre of art. “Often when artists talk about writers,” he has said, “they’re talking about them as a source of content. I’m reading them for a moral stance in the world.”
He is currently preparing for a rather unprecedented exhibition in Berlin this coming February, for which he will be collaborating with the iconic German Expressionist Käthe Kollwitz (1867 – 1945), whose infamous cycles The Weavers and The Peasant War directly confronted the deprivation of poverty and the mistreatment of the working classes. His paintings will hang beside hers (see a preview on his Instagram page), on loan from her namesake museum, creating a surely compelling juxtaposition between a living artist, and a deceased one who has influenced him.
“I have admired Käthe Kollwitz for decades,” he explains, “so I am honored and thrilled to be able to create an exhibition with and in response to her work in Berlin—the city where she lived and worked.”
As Martinez Celaya himself currently lives and works in Los Angeles, we asked him to virtually take us around the city to his favorite art destinations, while we wait for some of them to open back up. Which we’re very much hoping happens before 2020 is behind us.
Enrique Martinez Celaya, The Prophet, 2018
Enrique Martinez Celaya’s Cultural Guide to Los Angeles
It is the first museum established in Los Angeles, and it often brings together scholarship, well-considered exhibitions, and exciting educational programs. It has an excellent permanent collection, but it is not always on view.
A wonderful collection, a vast library, and spectacular gardens. Everybody wants to see the museum’s most well-known work, Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, but don’t miss Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Diana and George Wesley Bellows’ Portrait of Laura.
The first museum in Los Angeles that acquired my work. It has an encyclopedic collection, and two of my favorite things to see are Diego Rivera’s Portrait of Frida Kahlo, and the museum’s amazing German Expressionist collection.
The museum has a good collection of post-war and contemporary art, with great pieces by Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Sigmar Polke, and Jasper Johns, as well as influential California artists like Richard Diebenkorn, Ed Ruscha, and John Baldessari.
The museum has a terrific and, at times quirky collection of art and artifacts from Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. There is a lot to see, as artworks are mixed by the brilliant Joes Segal with books and strange objects.
A post-war and contemporary collection. Skip the Koons and Kusama works, and visit instead the museum’s holdings of Leon Golub, Anselm Kiefer, and Joseph Beuys. The museum’s curator, Ed Schad, is one of the best-read art people I know.
Image by Mike Kelley, courtesy of The Broad
Located at the Santa Monica Airport in a 22,000 square foot hangar, the space houses private studios and public viewing areas. The studios offer a rare opportunity to see an active creative community, to look at recent artworks, and to speak with artists, who often welcome visitors into their spaces.
About 45 minutes from Los Angeles, the museum has a substantial collection that includes Native American art, Renaissance paintings, significant works by Goya, and contemporary art. For me, the highlight of Pomona’s collection is Jose Clemente Orozco’s Prometheus fresco, which is definitely worth the drive.
This special cemetery, in the heart of Los Angeles, is open during the day to explore. It represents one of the longest stretches of uninterrupted land in LA, including rolling grass hills and beautiful vistas. All graves have flat engraved tombstones in the ground, so there are no view obstructions. It has several European art reproductions, including Michelangelo’s Pietá at the top of the hill, integrated with small carved caves and grottoes. This cemetery also holds a good amount of history, in how long it has been in existence and who is buried there (Bela Lugosi, Rita Hayworth, Sharon Tate). It’s a magnificent art experience, much like walking through a sculpture garden or an art park in Florence.