The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Lobby of LA MOCA, Grand Avenue
Rutten wants director Jeremy Strick‘s head and recommends throwing out the entire governing board along with him. He wants the city’s mayor and city council president, who are ex-officio members of the museum’s board of trustees, to see to it that this housecleaning happens. Maybe the city should have sent representatives to board meetings who saw to it that MOCA’s frightful fiscal irresponsibility didn’t happen in the first place.
Smith started her recommendations with a Beatles-inspired exhortation for MOCA’s divided board: “Come together right now.” She states the obvious: MOCA’s board needs to “draft a rescue plan and see what kind of money they can scrape together.” She seems to want the stricken Strick to stay on, adding that he needs “support and input from his museum-director colleagues about ways to restructure his staff.” (Restructure his staff? How about his finances?) Her one fresh idea is that the fundraising campaign should be grassroots, emulating Obama’s campaign, which “harnessed small donations.”
Here’s what I think:
I want Jeremy Strick to stay. Unless some gross negligence or malfeasance comes to light, I would hate to see him forced by this financial crisis to leave an institution where he’s built such a nationally acclaimed program of cutting-edge exhibitions. But his profligate support of artistic vision obviously needs a reality check. MOCA urgently needs a chief financial officer who sees to it that the museum is well run from a fiscal, as well as curatorial, point of view.
Like this letter writer to the LA Times, I hate seeing the former Temporary Contemporary closed, even temporarily. This cavernous Gehry-renovated former warehouse is what makes MOCA uniquely suited for mounting engrossing, sprawling installations of the latest art. This space is now named for David Geffen, who in 1996 donated $5 million to support the museum’s endowment drive. Maybe he can be prevailed upon to ante up again. The Geffen Contemporary’s closure, beginning Jan. 6, must not be allowed to become permanent.
I also think that the City of Los Angeles, to the extent possible, should not only provide some administrative oversight, as Rutten suggests, but also some cash for this endangered institution situated on city-owned land. New York City, through its Cultural Institutions Group, provides significant annual operating support to 34 institutions on public land—everything from the Staten Island Botanical Garden to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I agree with Roberta that merging with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a dangerous notion. But I believe that a good synergy between the two institutions could involve using some of the space in LACMA’s new Broad Contemporary Art Museum (to which Eli Broad has said he will NOT donate his collection) for rotating displays from MOCA’s superb but under-exhibited permanent collection (which would still remain MOCA’s property, not LACMA’s).
And what about the Broad Challenge? Despite Eli Broad’s protestations to the contrary, it seems clear that MOCA’s trustees may be chafing at some strings attached to his $30-million bailout offer (which requires that other donors step up to the plate). It is otherwise incomprehensible that no one from MOCA has yet publicly said anything resembling, “Thanks, Eli, for your remarkably large and timely benefaction.”
What we do know is that preconditions to Broad’s gift (as suggested in Broad’s LA Times Op-Ed piece and confirmed to me by his spokeswoman, Karen Denne) include: not selling art to raise funds; maintaining the museum’s two locations (Grand Avenue and Geffen Contemporary); keeping MOCA’s independence. Perhaps there are more: Edward Wyatt and Jori Finkel of the NY Times reported that Broad “said privately that he favors a management change, according to people who have been part of the discussions.”
The one thing that needs to happen yesterday is Strick’s forceful, clear communication to the public of am emerging emergency plan for plugging the gaping holes in MOCA’s finances. There can be no meaningful appeal for public support without this.
No one will heap bullion on a sinking ship.