Kenneth Anger, The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, 1954
To outsiders, Los Angeles has always represented a beacon of scandal and possibility. One could hop off the bus, bump into the right person, and bingo! You’re a star. And when you’re a star, you can do anything. The 1965 US release of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon exploded and exacerbated the national perception of the perks and hazards of Los Angeles’s celebrity culture. Did Clara Bow really sleep with the entire USC football team? Did Marie Prevost’s dachshund really devour her after her overdose? The stories seem real enough to believe—straight out of a movie—yet impossible to verify.
From 1982 to 2001, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago on the Sunset Strip was a microcosm of the Hollywood paradox: an affordable gourmet restaurant with socialist, utopian ideals, to which one could only gain access through wealth or celebrity. Paparazzi would line up outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of the fabled high-profile debauchery everyone imagined was unfolding within. Rumor has it the space was filled with cocaine, quaaludes, intergenerational stars and has-beens, and everybody was having sex with everybody. You could only verify that reality by popping the bubble; sitting on the right casting couch.
Hollywood Babylon: A Re-Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome is a marriage of generations starved on the madness of tabloid culture, an outsider’s longing look to the west, a celebration and inoculation of the glamour, deviancy, occultism, and mystique of Hollywood. Housed within the former Spago on the Sunset Strip, an orgy of contemporary artists ranging from Kenneth Anger, to Vaginal Davis, to Mike Kelley, to Isabelle Albuquerque offer their own, unique perspectives on the legends that make the upper-reaches of this city so deliciously present, yet just beyond reach.
1114 Horn Avenue, West Hollywood, California
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Public Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 12-6pm