Yesterday, I toured the Marciano Art Foundation located at 4357 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles. I discovered it a few weeks ago while on my evening run. I wanted to check out the Wilshire neighborhood located a few blocks north from mine in Koreatown, because I had heard it was full of history. I am still discovering of what history it comprises, but, I was surely impressed when I came upon this 1961 Masonic Temple turned private art museum.
The building is a massive white rectangle with more than 100,000 sq. ft.. It stands out as a piece of unusual architecture at its corner of Wilshire Blvd., because surrounding homes and the Wilshire United Methodist Church are covered in luscious green ivy and feature Spanish baroque architecture; a style that is really popular in Southern California, because of its Spanish history and influence.
Ahead of me, I saw a man gazing at the temple from a shady spot under a massive and possibly 100 years old palm tree. As I got closer, I could hear that he was listening to, what sounded like, Japanese zen garden music on speaker. My curiosity got the best of me, so, I couldn’t help but interrupt his contemplation to ask him what was this building before us. He was kind and seemed to have the answer prepared for my asking, because he quickly responded with, “a former Masonic Temple turned private art museum.”
I thought I had recognized the Masonic symbols on its facade, such as: the compass and square with the letter G at its center, but I wasn’t sure about the other details, such as: the massive white statues. I would later learn that they illustrate a significant timeline from the age of Imhotep to President Washington.
The man proceeded to tell me that two brothers, the Marciano’s (family of the brand Guess), bought the temple sometime in the 1990’s. The temple was abandoned for a period before its purchase, but in its heyday it was a functioning Masonic Temple of the Scottish Rite.
According to the museum pamphlet that I would pick up on my own tour of the place a few weeks later, the building was built in 1961 and its striking artistic symbols and murals were creations of Millard Sheets, a former Mason, artist and educator who was well known in Los Angeles. He died in 1989.
The man told me that the museum is free to the public, but requires online registration. He also said that he was planning on visiting sometime soon, himself.
Later that evening, I registered two tickets for my husband and I. We visited on June 10 at 1100.
We walked a beautiful 30 minutes from our apartment to the temple, under groves of blossoming jacaranda (a lovely tree that grows purple flowers and originates from Central and South America, but was brought here by the Spaniards) and southern magnolias with their massive white blossoms. For a Saturday, the streets weren’t busy; we were the only two out and about, so, it was such a pleasure to have a bit of peace and quiet in the heart of an overloaded city and all to ourselves for once.
We finally arrived at the Marciano Art Foundation temple museum.
Along its Wilshire Blvd.-facing side, are massive carvings depicting a historical timeline.Imhotep is considered the first architect, engineer and physician in early history and responsible for building the first Egyptian pyramids. He also associated the ideas of regularity with Freemasonry. Regularity is a constitutional mechanism whereby Grand Lodges or Grand Orients give one another mutual recognition.Hiram was the Phoenician king of Tyre according to the Hebrew Bible. He was also the Master Mason ordered by the Jerusalem King Solomon to build his temple of treasures. Hiram was murdered for his Masonic secrets, and with him died the secret Masonic word “Jehovah”.Zerubbabel was a Master Mason who was ordered to build a temple for the Jerusalem King Darius, which he successfully did.Saints John refers to two Johns: St. John the Baptist who baptized believers in the river Jordan and John the Evangelist who was Jesus’ best friend in life and death. They are figures representing the same virtues of masonry.De Reims Cathedral is a gorgeous gothic cathedral located in Northeast France. Its French name is Notre-dame de Reims. It is significant to Masonry, because it was where all French kings were crowned, as well as it was built by Master Masons who installed a labyrinth on its central isle. A labyrinth comes from Greek mythology and was a confusing structure built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete to hold the Minotaur; the monster eventually killed by the hero Theseus. Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that he could barely escape it after he built it.Wren refers to the Deputy Grandmaster Mason, Christopher Wren. Although he received no formal education in architecture, mathematics or astronomy, he was brilliant in the disciplines and so much so that he invented many important astronomical tools that are still used today. When his talents were noticed, he was asked to build St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which he did successfully, but not according to his original plans, because of his authority’s interference. Nonetheless, he is a praised figure among the Masons.President George Washington, a Master Mason from Virginia, with the date September 18, 1793, marks the year he placed the cornerstone (the first stone set in the construction of a Masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure) of The United States Capitol during a Masonic ritual.Albert Pike was a Freemason, confederate soldier, attorney and writer. He became a Freemason in 1859 when he was elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction.Here is a lovely mural by Millard Sheets located on the eastern side of the Marciano Art Foundation. Although this entire work of art is teeming with Masonic symbolism, I can only recognize a few. There is the Masonic sun (top center), usually depicted with 16 rays and the Masonic moon (top left).
At the top center and below the Masonic sun is the letter “G”, which I discovered was introduced in Old Latin. It was introduced into the alphabet by Spurius Carvilius Ruga, son of a famous Roman consul, who was the first Roman to open a school of knowledge in 230 B.C. This is no coincidence because the entire essence of the occult is to seek all wisdom and knowledge of the mysteries and therefore become a divine god.
From top to bottom, you have the following cities represented: Boston, Sacramento, London, Rome, Acre, Babylon and Jerusalem, which I believe to be a map and timeline of where and when events took place that led to the creation of the Rectified Scottish Rite, for whom this temple was regulated.
In the middle, you have a massive cross with a red rose in its center. This is a Rosicrucian reference that became the Rectified Scottish Rite.
If you find symbols in this image that I did not recognize, I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below, please. Thank you! We then entered the Marciano Art Foundation via its west entrance where we were greeted by a doorkeeper who checked our electronic tickets, handed up an informational pamphlet and told us not to use the golden drinking fountains located throughout the museum, because they were sacred to the former Masons and thus historical artifacts of the museum.
Then we proceeded to the theater gallery. The space used to have a large stage with dozens of handpainted backdrops illustrating forests illuminated by moonlight and ancient Egyptian wars, among other scenes, but the museum owners removed them and put them into storage for safekeeping. They did photograph each backdrop, however, and printed them in books that are located in the mezzanine for viewing. In place of the theater is an exhibition space that is currently occupied with the works of Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. On the second floor of the Marciano Art Foundation, is a realistic mural by LA artist Alex Israel that depicts specific symbols of the city, such as: various flora, cement public trash bins, parking meters, old and idle phone booths and the glitzy glitter leggings one can find at Venice Beach vendors. Also located on the second floor of the Marciano Art Foundation is the mezzanine where old Masonic relics are exhibited. They are so freakin’ bewildering! Relics include: old texts by Albert Pike, busts of different ethnicities, like: a “Japonese” [sic] and “a great Russian”, etc., and records of annual meetings, including: financial records, amendments and constitutions, as well as, hats worn by the old Scottish Rite Masons for their years in the secret society and/or rank held.On the third floor, in the lounge gallery, is a bizarre exhibit by artist Albert Oehlen. His art reminded me of the dark and cryptic tunnels we journey while living in the digital age; how no route seems to make sense as a larger picture, yet everything seems to be entirely connected; how some routes appear wider and easier to navigate than others, while narrower routes are made of pixels, to show how communication can often be missing, thus, changing our understandings of one another and the world around us. It’s like everything is there, but nothing at all, and like a puzzle, only when you put it together do you see where some pieces are, indeed, missing.There is also an interesting collection that incorporates pieces actually owned by the Marciano Art Foundation and from various international artists.One of my personal favorites was this beautiful red piece by Jennifer Guidi. Just wow!Here is another one of my favorites. It’s a piece called “I copy therefore I am”. According to the artist, it’s an interpretation of the mockery of society living as carbon copies of one another. The direct example the artist uses is the brand Supreme that is unoriginal, using just a word and type text, yet is a million dollar brand that everyone wears. This piece really resonated with me, because much of LA is like this, but you can find pockets where originality does exist and when you discover it, its eye-catching. We ended the tour of the Marciano Art Foundation by enjoying the warm weather with cool breezes on the outdoor balcony that overlooks the Hollywood Hills. Here is a selfie of my husband and I for good measure.
So, what do you know about occult history in Los Angeles? Have you been to the Marciano Art Foundation? If yes, which exhibits did you see? If not, what is stopping you?!