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Eli Broad offers MOCA $30 million

November 21, 2008 |  7:14 pm

Eliedythebroad Eli Broad says — without providing details — that he is prepared to ante up $30 million to help L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art out of its financial crisis. In an opinion piece to be published in Saturday's Los Angeles Times, L.A.'s top arts philanthorpist writes:

"I’d like to make a proposal to the MOCA board and to the civic angels of Los Angeles. I’ll step up if you do too. The Broad Art Foundation is prepared to make a significant investment in MOCA — $30 million — with the expectation that the museum’s board and others join in this effort to solve the institution’s financial problems. It is vital that the museum remain on Grand Avenue, keep its collection and continue its grand tradition of world-class exhibitions.

"This is not a one-philanthropist town. ... The philanthropic community must not turn its back on MOCA. We must make it one of our civic priorities. ... We came together to save Disney Hall. We can do it again."

Broad said through a spokeswoman that he would not elaborate on his written commentary, except to add: “The investment would be some immediate cash and some over a period of several years.”

His article does not say how much he wants others to contribute or whether he intends his money as a challenge grant — a common fundraising device in which a lead donor offers to make a major contribution, but only if the rest of the community first kicks in a certain amount.

Also, in characterizing the $30 million as an "investment," it's not clear whether Broad would expect something in return — perhaps the right to lend works from MOCA's collection through his foundation, which serves as a "lending library" for museums around the world, or to borrow from MOCA's collection for shows at the 25,000-square-foot museum/headquarters he is seeking to build within about three years.

MOCA's endowment, worth more than $36 million in 2000 and just $20.4 million in mid-2007, is said to have dwindled to as low as $7 million amid the current world financial crisis. The highly respected museum has been unwilling to release current figures. MOCA's collection and exhibitions are considered among the best in the nation and the world for post-World War II art, but the museum has been living off its reserves for much of the decade.

In other breaking MOCA news, the museum announced this afternoon that the California Attorney General's office is looking into its finances. A museum spokeswoman released this statement:

"MOCA has received a letter from the California Attorney General’s office.  The California Attorney General has broad jurisdiction and oversight over California non-profits, including MOCA.  The letter requested information and documents related to the Museum's finances.  MOCA is fully cooperating with the Attorney General."

Scott Gerber, a spokesman for the Attorney General's office, would not confirm that the office had sent the letter and would offer no comment on the matter.

Arthur Rieman, managing attorney of Studio City's The Law Firm for Non-Profits, said Friday that it is standard procedure for the Attorney General's office to launch a preliminary inquiry in reaction to news reports of possible misuse or inappropriate diversion of charitable assets. "This probably is normal — it doesn't mean anything other than that they [the Attorney General's office] have been made aware that there may have been a diversion of assets," Rieman said.

MOCA leaders declined to discuss the Broad article or the Attorney General letter.

—Mike Boehm and Diane Haithman

Photo: Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, at the February gala opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

Photo credit: Dan Steinberg /Associated Press

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