I had a couple of art major friends, who, after taking a class on contemporary art freshman year, labeled everything in their room “Ceci n'est pas une …” (“This is not a …”). Post-Its covered the dorm, stating Ceci n'est pas une bed, ceci n'est pas une chair, ceci n'est pas une bong. All of this was done out of reverence for René Magritte's The Treachery of Images : a pipe with the cursive scripture “Ceci n'est pas une pipe.”

Now, what these co-eds failed to realize – or, perhaps, chose to ignore – was that the surrealist was correct: it is not a pipe – it is a painting of a pipe. If one were to see it in an elementary art textbook, we'd be even more removed: it would be a picture of a painting of a pipe. But, never, a pipe.

Not that any of this matters for … Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images is a meta-exhibition. While some 68 pieces of the Belgian surrealist are on display, the exhibit also includes work inspired by Magritte – including Jeff Koons' famous Rabbit and Vija Celmins' six-foot comb.

The entire space, under John Baldessari's direction, has bowed to the surrealist impulse. One walks upon clouds and gazes up at the marbled ceiling. An entrance to the exhibit space is a cookie-cuttered door, reminiscent of an old Warner's Bros. cartoon where Daffy Duck runs through a wall leaving a perfect imprint of his silhouette.

Like those old cartoons, the exhibit brings playfulness and exuberance to the sometimes clinical feel of museum spaces, and in doing so, spoils quotidian exhibition spaces. Who wants to stare at pictures on a wall when they can nearly (thank you, security!) trip over Jeff Koons' Lifeboat ?  

LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. Magritte is a specially ticketed exhibition, with prices ranging from $12–$20. Magritte tickets include free admission to the rest of the museum on the day of your visit. Tickets may be purchased online, by calling (877) 522-6225 or at the LACMA box office. For more information, visit www.lacma.org.