Pomona Museum of Art Under Scrutiny for Displaying Replicas

The Pomona College Museum of Art recently has come under media scrutiny for displaying replicas of sculptures created by artist Jack Goldstein. The replicas are a component of Part Two of the museum's series It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973, which focuses on art that had been displayed in the museum from fall 1970 to spring 1972. 

Goldstein's original sculptures were lost after his initial solo exhibition at the museum during the early '70s. According to Senior Curator Rebecca McGrew, leaving out Goldstein's work would be a major omission in It Happened at Pomona

“Seeing a black-and-white photograph of a work does not convey the sense of scale or suspenseful danger one might be in when in the presence of the works,” McGrew said.

The curators took special care to make the replicas as close as possible to the originals. McGrew and her co-curator, Glenn Phillips, consulted Goldstein’s estate and other galleries that have displayed Goldstein’s work. 

“We checked with a museum in France that had recreated several of Goldstein's sculptures right before he died. So we knew Goldstein had been amenable to refabricating his work. In addition, Goldstein's studio mate from the era, Hirokazu Kosaka, another artist in the Part Two exhibition, had worked with him on building the original sculptures and offered to work with us on the refabrication,” McGrew said. 

McGrew admitted that recreating a deceased artist's work is a controversial topic. The legality of an artist's posthumous ability to allow or disallow the recreation of their art is also a “hotly debated topic right now in the contemporary art world,” she said. 

McGrew reasoned that in the absence of original pieces, there is no way for an audience to understand an artist’s work except through recreating the pieces.

“If the artist’s intention and preference allows the recreation, then I don't think there is a problem with this," McGrew said. 

McGrew cited an example of when the museum chose not to recreate an artist work. For Part One of the series, the museum wanted to replicate an untitled installation by Michael Asher created in 1970. Although, as McGrew said, “this work [was] a key example of the conceptual art Institutional Critique style, [and] has become one of the most famous and well-known works that appeared at Pomona in this era,” the museum did not recreate this sculpture because Asher did not want a replication on display.

The replication of Goldstein's sculptures is not the first time the museum has recreated an artist's work. 

"Goldstein's 1971 sculptures was not the first and only case of recreations in the It Happened at Pomona exhibition," McGrew said. "We recreated both the Tom Eatherton and Lloyd Hamrol pieces in Part One, and we are recreating several objects and installations in Part Three."