Do We Have Too Many Museums? Or Not Enough?
Not two months ago, an important collector sat on an art market panel and described his over-arching desire to create his own museum. In the boom years, that was hardly a singular ambition. Toward the end of the boom cycle, it seemed that collectors and museums were beginning to face a stand-off over funds and art.
Everything’s different now. And this article in the Los Angeles Times reminds us that money is short everywhere, especially at museums.
Unlike the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is partly controlled by the county, MOCA receives minimal government funding. Its annual budget has grown to exceed $20 million, but it relies on donors to pay about 80% of its expenses. When the gifts have fallen short, as they have more often than not during Strick’s nine-year tenure, the museum has gone into its savings.
In recent years, the museum has averaged 250,000 visits annually to view critically acclaimed exhibitions and a collection boasting works by such post-World War II masters as Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg and Mark Rothko.
By one important measure — “unrestricted assets,” money that can be used for any purpose — MOCA is in dire straits. Its federal tax returns show that early in this decade the museum had spent all $20 million of its unrestricted funds to meet routine operating costs. By mid-2007, it had borrowed an additional $7.5 million from “restricted” accounts, even though those are designated by donors for specific uses, such as education or buying art. [ . . . ]
(More after the jump.)
Eli Broad, L.A.’s preeminent arts patron, said Tuesday that he had had “very preliminary discussions” with MOCA leaders about helping via his Broad Art Foundation. “MOCA is very important to the city,” he said. “I hope they figure out a way to remain independent and continue their important exhibition program, which has brought a lot of respect to Los Angeles.”
Last month Broad, who was also a key figure in launching MOCA as its initial chairman from 1979 to 1984, approached the city of Beverly Hills about his desire to build a new museum and foundation offices there. [ . . . ]
Before the national economic crisis hit, Strick said, MOCA was gearing up gradually for its first major endowment campaign since the mid-1990s, when it raised $25 million. Now, he said, there’s no time for that, and the focus is on “immediate issues and how to move ahead in a very different world.”
Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art has a contemporary problem — finances (Los Angeles Times)