A Struggle Between LA Arts Patrons?

It's been a long time coming, but billionare philanthropist and L.A.'s largest arts patron Eli Broad might have to give up on his rescue of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

In 2008, the museum was under financial stress, and Broad stepped in with a $30 million, strings-attached gift that called for restructuring. But the museum's financial struggles have persisted, and it now looks like a proposed merger with the Los Angeles County Art Museum might be on the table. LACAM had stepped in in 2008 as well, but the Broad Foundation plan was accepted. (See Broad Foundation: Los Angeles Grants).

The two issues at the heart of the merger talks are bolstering the MOCA's endowment and its autonomy. In 2008, Broad's plan for the foundation included the stipulation that MOCA "continue operating as an independent, world-class contemporary art museum, to maintain both its Grand Avenue headquarters and the Geffen Contemporary space in Little Tokyo, and to keep its collection intact and not sell any works of art," according to a report by the Foundation Center.

A merger would threaten MOCA's independence and likely face opposition from Broad. According to the Los Angeles Times, Broad supports a partnership with the University of Southern California. The Times' Theater Critic Christopher Knight summed up the struggle recently:

A chess match between rivals Broad and [LACMA Executive Director Michael] Govan, with MOCA as the stunning if hapless prize, is also distasteful to watch. But one benefit now is that, unlike the dire days of 2008, the matter is pressing though not urgent.

Eli Broad, who founded the The Broad Art Foundation with his wife in 1984, has been a longtime patron of the arts in Los Angeles. The foundation also has a extensive collection of contemporary art, with plans for a museum to open across the street from the MOCA in 2014. (Read Broad Art Foundation director, Joanne Heyler's IP profile).