As the war in the Ukraine escalates and political unrest continues dividing Americans, the state of the world may seem bleak. At the opening night party to celebrate the new Pace Gallery in Los Angeles, director Julian Schnabel and several attendees spoke about how the arts are vital more than ever in the face of violence and despair.
“We need a lot of hope cause it’s such a gruesome, violent, senseless moment in time,” said Schnabel at the Pace Gallery Friday night. “Art can bring hope. Art provides cross-pollination with people, and I think it has the power to start conversations and change opinions that can create social change.”
Schnabel, who earned an Oscar nomination for helming the 2007 drama The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is a prolific artist. His body of work includes paintings, sculptures, architecture, and design as well as film. He is staging his latest art collection at Pace, titled “For Esmé – with Love and Squalor,” which is derived from J.D. Salinger’s 1950 short story about a suicidal World War II solider experiencing post traumatic stress disorder. After the soldier meets Esmé, a young orphaned girl who gives him her most prized possession, a watch that had belonged to her late father, the soldier reconsiders his decision to commit suicide. Through Esmé’s generosity, Schnabel’s exhibition expresses the need for love.
“The story is optimistic even if the subject matter is tragic, and it helps us see the world from different perspectives,” said Schnabel, who named his four-month-old daughter Esmé. “Walt Whitman talked about art being the concept of a gymnasium. Somebody can go there and might not be a great athlete, and somebody might be a great athlete that goes there, but they all can participate in a gymnasium. Art functions like that, bringing a lot of people together and bringing optimism and creativity and different ideas and the accumulation of emotional moments.”
The exhibition at Pace Los Angeles features 13 colorful abstract paintings all made from oil, spray paint, and molding paste on velvet. The centerpiece is a large-scale bronze sculpture made out of cast silicon bronze with a stainless steel structure located in the gallery’s outdoor courtyard. Jonah Hill and Greg Kinnear were among the 350 guests who were first to view the artwork and celebrate the new Pace Gallery, formerly occupied by the Kayne Griffin Gallery. While browsing the exhibition with his family, Kinnear stopped to discuss the positive impacts that the arts can provide.
“I do believe that art connects us all,” said Kinnear, who currently appears in the Starz horror-comedy series Shining Vale. “My hope is that historically, when you look back even in the darkest times, that art is something that can help us rise above the horror around us. It doesn’t make anything better with what is going on, but it does kind of pacify the moment, and certainly gives us a sense of hope.”
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