Roberta Smith gave the board of LA MoCA a talking to in the pages of the New York Times this weekend now that the board has rejected LACMA’s overture to merge:
Now the trustees need to prove definitively that they finally understand the cultural importance of their museum, the danger in which they have placed it and the need for action. Their first step should be to distance themselves from Eli Broad, their ruling if nonvoting trustee, who fiercely opposed the merger but has been instrumental in bringing the museum to this impasse.
Only with him gone will the museum be able to attract the serious money, dedicated board members, professional staff and — most important — strong, visionary director that it needs.
The combination of the domineering Mr. Broad and unusually passive trustees has forced to its knees one of the greatest American museums of the postwar era. Scores of critics have tried to convince the board of the value of the institution it is supposed to be stewarding. What this museum has done for art since World War II is something like what the Museum of Modern Art did for art between the two world wars. It has mounted groundbreaking surveys — “1965-1975: Reconsidering the Art Object,” from 1996, and “Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Art Object 1949-1979,” from 1998, come to mind. These have vividly defined the era’s artistic trajectories, laying out and revising on a grand, often global scale the origins and influence of phenomena like Minimal Art, Conceptualism, Performance art and film.
The contemporary museum has also built an exemplary collection of art of the postwar period. No other institution has achieved quite this combination; the city’s artists and other progressive museums in Los Angeles would not be where they are today without it. The international art world is also in its debt. The sad truth, however, is that the museum has achieved all of this by habitually living beyond its means, drawing down its endowment to meet operating expenses.