Museums observe A Day With(out) Art AIDS' toll is marked in annual ritual. By Yvonne Villarreal
On Monday, the Greek marble statue of a man playing a harp located in
the center of the Prehistoric and Bronze Age Arts gallery at the J. Paul Getty Museum
will be cloaked in black cloth. But it's not being prepped to be
cleaned. Nor is there maintenance work to be done. Its concealment is
emblematic of the creative loss in the arts community by AIDS.
The veiling of the circa 26th century BC Cycladic sculpture is part of the museum's 19th annual observance of A Day With(out) Art,
a time when the international arts community stops to remember and
react to the AIDS crisis and its effect on the art world. It coincides
with , an international campaign aimed at educating the public about
"Traditionally the Getty has marked the day, and we saw no reason to
stop this year," said Rainer Mack, manager of education at the Getty
Villa. "The shrouding of the work symbolically encapsulates A Day
With(out) Art by depriving people access to a particular work of art.
We chose this particular statue because as a musician, he represents an
The initial movement of 800 U.S. art and AIDS groups blossomed
into a collaborative project of thousands of national and international
AIDS service organizations, museums, galleries and other arts
organizations. In recent years, however, its force has dwindled.
"Lots of organizations sort of have the [AIDS] programming in their
schedule already so they didn't really need us to remind them," said
Nelson Santos, associate director of Visual AIDS, a volunteer
organization of artists and art professionals applying the influence of
the arts in the fight against the illness. "We also feel it's important
to recognize the AIDS pandemic throughout the year instead of just
observing it one day."
Some Southland museums -- such as LACMA, MOCA, Fowler Museum and Hammer Museum
-- with a history of sharing in the observance won't be doing so this
year. Though they may not be participating, some acknowledged
showcasing exhibits or artwork that examine the disease's force.
"Unfortunately we don't have any exhibition or program on the subject
this year, due to our exhibition schedule and the fact that the museum
is closed on Monday," said Stacey Ravel Abarbanel, spokeswoman for
Fowler Museum at UCLA, who noted that the exhibit "Dress Up Against
AIDS: Condom Couture by Adriana Bertini" had opened there on World AIDS
Day 2006. "But our commitment to the subject goes well beyond a one-day
Earlier this year, the museum featured Make Art/Stop AIDS, a traveling
exhibition of 60 works exploring how artists around the world are
responding to AIDS and how their work helps in raising awareness.
In addition to the shrouding of the statue, the Getty has other
events planned for the day. Visitors can make commemoration cards --
embellished, if they choose, with images of plants that symbolize life,
death and remembrance, such as rosemary, myrtle and pomegranate -- and
hang them with red ribbon from a tree branch to share with other
visitors, an act inspired by ancient rituals of remembrance.
"We wanted to try and develop something that would enable people to
respond a little more actively," Mack said. "The memory trees will
provide a forum for people to reflect on the meaning of the day."
A series of 20-minute talks also will be held, examining the ways in
which loss has been memorialized through artworks and nature.
Day Without Art, developed by the Visual AIDS organization, began in
1989 to honor people in the art community struck down by the illness
and to raise awareness. One day a year, galleries close their doors in
observance; others shroud paintings. In 1997, the name changed to A Day
With(out) Art as artists have shifted emphasis by creating works in
response to AIDS.
At the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, a World AIDS Day
exhibition is on view. In "All My Little Failures," Andrew McPhail
addresses the question of HIV and AIDS in the form of sculpture,
drawing, video and photography; each looks at the menacing quality
objects can evoke when viewed through the lens of an illness.
"A one-day observance just isn't enough," Santos said. "But it's a step."