The first thing we did when we got to La Jolla, after checking in at our hotel, the Grande Colonial, was race to the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art (though officially it's the La Jolla branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.)
Fortunately it was just a few blocks along Prospect Street, and the reason we raced there was because it was Tuesday. The Museum is closed on Wednesday, and by the time it re-opened at 11am Thursday we’d be back on the PCH heading north.
We almost wimped out, as modern art can be a little hit and miss for us, but we’re so glad we made the effort. There was so much about this museum we loved. There’s no point in going into detail about the exhibition that we saw, as the shows are always changing and it’s been replaced by something else by now. (Check the website for what’s on view at the moment.)
But it was a really exciting and fascinating exhibition of art that was either from or had been influenced by Mexico, called Mexico: Expected/Unexpected. There were drum kits and donkeys, butterflies and jungle photos, even a room full of garlic cloves suspended from the ceiling. It was the fun and stimulating side of modern art, not the po-faced self-indulgent side that can just be a complete waste of space.
The space at the Museum of Contemporary Art is wonderful, and wonderfully used. There are lots of small to medium sized rooms, mostly on one floor, all with white walls - some streaming with natural light too, others more subdued.
We really appreciated the way the security guards took a real pleasure in talking about the displays. How often does that happen in a museum? They weren’t obtrusive, but sometimes pointed out things you might have missed, and answered questions about the installations. We were curious as to how some of them were put up, and one guard told us that some artists left really strict instructions, to the inch, while others were much more relaxed and left it to the staff to make the artwork look good.
Even though the museum itself closes on Wednesdays, the shop remains open during the regular 11am-5pm hours. So too does the fantastic outdoor sculpture garden, so you can call in and see that. We really enjoyed it, not just because it was a sunny day, but the small collection included works by two of our favorite artists - Niki de Saint Phalle and Andy Goldsworthy. We loved the cascade of surfboards and boats and kayaks that surprises you when you look up above the rear entrance, and there were some magnificent cacti and other plants too.
We only had an hour or so to look round the museum inside, and that was just about enough, and then we had the gardens to ourselves - the helpful staff told us we could let ourselves out through the one-way gate at the bottom of the garden, even after the museum was officially closed. They couldn’t have been nicer in there, and you should definitely check this lovely, lively museum out when you’re in La Jolla.
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