Paying a Visit to the Bert Rodriguez Museum
March 31 2015

Paying a Visit to the Bert Rodriguez Museum

Los Angeles-Art Inspection

The Bert Rodriguez Museum is located on a quiet residential block of Clinton Ave in West Hollywood, just a short drive from The Standard, Hollywood. You could miss it entirely, if say, you were running late, and walking too fast, as Standard Culture was one recent evening. Look up at the windows of the apartment building set back from the street, and you’ll see the sign stenciled in thin, tasteful letters on one large window.

At the moment, the only way to visit The Bert Rodriguez Museum is by appointment. A glance around revealed no bag check, no ticket counter, no lines snaking back and forth out front. Pressing the buzzer, Rodriguez greeted us at the front door in a black t-shirt.

Rodriguez is a fairly recent Los Angeles transplant. Born and raised in Miami, he first came to notice as one the most adventurous, provocative (and funny) artists to emerge from the city during the art boom of the early 2000s. He’s known for conceptual works, which read as one part performance, one part deadpan joke: burying himself to the neck in front of the Bass Museum, conducting therapy sessions in the middle of the Whitney Biennial, making a traditional Cuban meal for gallery-goers with his mom.

The idea of turning his living space into a museum came after his move to Los Angeles and was inspired by Jackson Pollock’s home in the Hamptons, which has been turned into the Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center. There, objects like Pollock’s paint-splattered shoes are given just as much significance as his actual paintings. “The idea is that not just the work the artist leaves when he passes, but all the objects surrounding his life, become valuable assets in his legacy,” said Rodriguez. “Number one, that’s an interesting idea to me. And number two, that’s a funny idea.”

In a sense, the Bert Rodriguez Museum is the apotheosis of fixations Rodriguez has been exploring all along: What is an art show? Is everything I do art? Is nothing I do art? His museum project could also be seen as a swipe at the accepted legitimacy of “real” museums. It would seem that the banality, the very humbleness of the Bert Rodriguez museum is part of the point.

We began our tour in the living room where Making Shit Up, the currently unreleased documentary about Rodriguez, was projected against the wall. Sun-scorched tumbleweeds (artworks made by Rodriguez) decorated the floor. His small dog (presumably not an artwork, but maybe?) yapped. In the entryway leading from the living room, display shelves contained pieces made by Rodriguez, including an old fashion-styled pipe commissioned by G Pen. Rodriguez noted that we were now in the gift shop.

In the hallway from the kitchen to the bathroom, Rodriguez pointed to the museum’s information center: a nook with a laptop. Rodriguez also indicated the spot where, like any Museum worth its salt, he would be installing the donation box, once his official designation was bestowed by the city.

Moments later, the tour was over.

“My dream is to become just as much an equal artifact as anything else in the space,” Rodriguez said. “So a book of matches that's sitting within my drawer is just as interesting and weird and valuable as me taking a nap or walking around or watching TV. That would be amazing to me.”

Rodriguez still has a ways to go, and a lot of paperwork to complete, before his apartment will officially become the Bert Rodriguez Museum, a tax-exempt, non-profit organization. He’s in the process of creating an estate and trust, and he needs to get a board and hire staff. The head chef at Soho House in Los Angeles is creating an exclusive menu consisting entirely of white food that will be served from the cafeteria (Rodriguez’s kitchen). The meals will be prepared by Rodriguez himself. “It will be interesting when I have the fundraising gala,” he said. “There will be four people at the table and three on the couch.”

Photography by Nicholas Haggard.