Stars lend voices to museums

They're in demand for audio guides

Art

August 14, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - Visitors who choose the audio guide to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's new blockbuster exhibition, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, might recognize the voice that softly evokes the mysteries of Egypt as that of veteran actor Omar Sharif.

The silver-haired actor is far from the first Hollywood star to read the narration for an audio guide at the museum, which, like many others, has turned to celebrities to add cachet to exhibitions.

Edward James Olmos was the voice of its 1991 Mexican art exhibition, The Splendors of Thirty Centuries, and Peter Coyote spoke for Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, also in 1991. Art aficionado Dustin Hoffman narrated 1998's Picasso: Masterworks from the Museum of Modern Art.

Steve Martin, a collector, former member of LACMA's board of trustees and author of the play Picasso at the Lapin Agile, narrated for another Picasso exhibition, in 1996 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

John Astin, who has portrayed Edgar Allan Poe in a one-man show, recorded Poe's The Raven for the Baltimore Museum of Art's 2003 exhibition Haunting Visions of Poe: Illustrations by Manet, Matisse and Gauguin.

Jane Burton, curator of interpretation for the Tate Modern in London, said it is not just actors but also other well-known people who are in demand for audio guides. Whenever possible, Tate Modern uses the voices of the contemporary artists whose work the museum exhibits, rather than celebrity actors. Bruce Nauman, Damien Hirst and David Hockney all have recorded guides to their work.

"I think it brings the art to life to some extent and reminds you that these are not dusty old artifacts - there are people and ideas and opinions behind them," Burton said.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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