Stewarding the Watts Towers

I remember driving through LA for the first time five years ago, seeing these towers from the distance, and wondering what kind of crazy accident created those. I only learned later they were the work of one man, building on his own. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is nearing an agreement to oversee the restoration and preservation of the Watts Towers:

Director of Lacma’s conservation department, Mark Gilberg, aims to take a more holistic approach to conservation efforts, which up until now have been short-term. “We are rethinking procedures and adopting ones that will be more proactive than reactive,” says Gilberg. Initial delays regarding insurance concerns have been resolved with the promise that Lacma will not be financially responsible for any gross negligence while working on the towers.

The decision to recruit the museum comes amidst a major budget shakedown across the state, which has resulted in slashed funding to nearly every sector. The state-owned Watts Towers “are in a situation where they are fighting a battle all the time,” explains Lacma spokeswoman, Barbara Pflaumer. Last year, before Los Angeles’s municipal budget was cut, the offer for Lacma’s conservation expertise was $300,000. Olga Garay, the head of the city’s department of cultural affairs, has reportedly put the total restoration costs at $5m.

 I’ve probably linked to it before, but after the jump you can see a 1957 documentary showing Simon Rodia at work:

  1. Marisa Mazria Katz, Lacma nears deal on Watts Towers project The Art Newspaper, (last visited Jan 4, 2011).

Questions or Comments? Email me at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.