The New York Times examines the
Yet by putting art ahead of the bottom line, the Museum of Contemporary Art has nearly killed itself. The museum has operated at a deficit in six of the last eight years, and its endowment has shrunk to about $6 million from nearly $50 million in 1999, according to people who have been briefed on the finances.
Now the California attorney general has begun an audit to determine if the museum broke laws governing the use of restricted money by nonprofit organizations. And local artists, curators and collectors, including current and former board members, are lobbying to remove the museum’s director, Jeremy Strick, its board, or both. [ . . . ]
(More details on the Museum’s Fiscal situation after the jump.)
Dean Valentine, a media entrepreneur and former museum trustee, described the museum as central to the city’s becoming a major cultural center. “For many artists in Los Angeles, it was the first institution that expressed interest in their work,” Mr. Valentine said, comparing its importance for West Coast artists to that of MoMA in New York for the Abstract Expressionists some 50 years ago.
Historically, one problem dogging the museum has been the lack of a proper home for its permanent collection, which features early work by John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha and Robert Rauschenberg, among others. The Grand Avenue building is considered too small by today’s standards while the larger Geffen Contemporary lacks necessary climate controls to preserve art.
“It’s a source of frustration for many of us,” Mr. Valentine said. Like Mrs. Nimoy, he left the museum board in 2006, unhappy with the leadership; both have since joined the board of the Hammer Museum here.
Given its financial crisis, the Museum of Contemporary Art has announced plans to close the Geffen for six months next year and is promoting the location online for rental to film crews.
According to its financial statements, the only time in the last seven years that the museum has managed to finish with a surplus was in the 2007 fiscal year, when its revenues topped expenses by $3 million. But much of that surplus came from a gain on the sale of investments; admissions and membership revenues had declined, and the budget surpassed $21 million, the highest ever.
Soaring in Art, Museum Trips Over Finances (New York Times)