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MOCA said to be courting LACMA for bailout

November 20, 2008 | 10:02 am

Moca_grand_ave In the wake of Wednesday's board meeting to discuss options for the fiscal crisis at the Museum of Contemporary Art, here is what I'm told the board is now prepared to do: formally approach the Los Angeles County Museum of Art about a merger, which will effectively mean a transfer of MOCA's extraordinary collection to the Mid-Wilshire complex.

And here is why that is the wrong move, simply continuing the MOCA board's callow response to a mess of its own making.

If MOCA does makes the pitch, Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes says, LACMA appears ready to make the catch.

-- Christopher Knight

A recap of MOCA headlines from earlier this week:

Other MOCA news:

MOCA facing serious financial problems

An open letter from Times Art Critic Christopher Knight to MOCA

MOCA director Jeremy Strick comments on the crisis

Highlights of MOCA’s collection

Photo: Museum of Contemporary Art

Comments () | Archives (17)

This would certainly explain the content free letter released by Stick yesterday that seemed to foretell the end of MOCA as we know it. It's hard to imagine a greater tragedy for this city's cultural future and it's impossible to imagine the leadership of any other city failing so totally.

I hate to say this but not many people would really notice if MOCA no longer existed. I have been there twice trying desperately to find meaning among the self-indulgent drivel I saw. As far as I'm concerned, let's not waste anymore taxpayer dollars on this museum. Art is not just about SELF-expression...it is also about reaching out to the rest of humanity.

this is a complete failure of the board at moca and of jeremy stricks lack of leadership.

What's the point of keeping MOCA open when it doesn't really get the interest of the public? I've visited once and it seems that the museum is more interested in exhibiting humongous objects that really give little to it's viewers.
Substance counts, and that's what really drives me to pay a visit.

Diane - MOCA does not receive any taxpayer's dollars. It's a private institution.

This will go thru ... and the financial books will never be completely examined at MOCA - Where did all the money go, folks? Why is nobody at the Times asking where the money went?

I would suggest increasing the price of admission to the museum. I LOVE MOCA and would hate to see it go.

There are so many creative and lucky mega-millionaires out there who could and should step up and help fund this, yes, even for museum naming rights.

It could be The Simpsons MoCA. Harry Potter's MoCA. Or heck, after this weekend, Twilight MoCA.

Art collector and billionaire author Michael Crichton passed away last week. Maybe his heirs could donate some of that Jurassic inheritance to fund an institution that Crichton was a part of.

It's incredible to me that some of the people commenting are so myopic about culture that they support the closing of a major museum just because what it shows doesn't always coincide with their personal taste.

Regardless of whether you "find meaning" there or not, many others have and it's important that be acknowledged. MOCA is widely viewed as one of the top museums in the country and to lose it would be a tragedy for the City.

Outside of the fact of the MoCA's gross incompetence and budget-busting ways, the negative worldwide media attention to this story is just bad PR for our city. While NY is probably feeling some schadenfreude over our arts & culture failures, this does not bode well for tourism. It's bigger than the museum. Just as one wouldn't buy a car from a company in bankruptcy court, it's doubtful that current or future MoCA members would want to begin/renew a membership in a museum that may not exist in a year. They should have handled this matter privately, exhausting every possibility, before making it public.

If you've been to the museum only twice or once you have no business commenting on the desperate situation MoCA and lovers of art in this city find themselves. Keep your uneducated opinions to yourselves.
If you're some paranoid freak - the answer you seem to be looking for is - yeah right - all the museum's money has disappeared into the off-shore bank account of who exactly? Keep your opinions to yourself too.
If you care deeply about the cultural capital that is Los Angeles then you will help us all make sure that MoCA remains an autonomous, viable institution. YOU are the one whose opinion matters.

Mr. Knight - LACMA is squarely in the Miracle Mile, not Mid-Wilshire. That term of geography is often misused to describe virtually any part of Wilshire east of Beverly Hills and west of downtown, but I know the Times can do better...right?

MOCA is a treasure, and it must not be allowed to disappear. I just purchased the highest level membership I can afford.

Diana T - I've been a MoCA member for 20 years and go to the museum regularly. I'm neither uneducated nor paranoid (though there is someone following me...). That said, take a look at the Board of Trustees of MoCA. There are about two dozen people there whose collective worth is in the TENS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. These are people whose personal art collections are probably worth more than a billion, who spend millions every year on new, contemporary art - usually at favorable conditions with the gallery - and whose personal collections increase in price when they use their museum ties to give one of those artists a solo or group show. They have been a benefit to the museum of the years, and the museum has benefited them.

Before the public is asked to raise funds for this private organization, the Board, who can well afford to donate more, should be asked to sacrifice. I don't want to see the museum go under either, but I'm tired of this national wave of privatization of wealthy, and socializing of debt.

Mr. Broad, Mr. Soros (George Soros' son!!!), and the others should chip in, just the same way a group of billionaires in NY got over $900 million together to fund a new building for MoMA.

And who said MoCA's money disappeared into an offshore account? Not me. I'm saying the museum has lived very largely - first class tix and lodging to dozens of art fairs, studio visits, restaurants just for Murakami alone - high salaries, etc., without saving for a rainy day or living within their means. Strick & Co. have a lot of explaining to do. They should be brought to the woodshed and publicly embarrassed.

But while that's going on, their Board should continue to be pressured - by Christopher Knight and a whole grassroots of museum supporters - to step up!!!! Take some freakin' responsibility. This happened under their stewardship and they should be the first line of defense, not a bunch of cheap SOBs hiding while Strick sends out content-free emails asking for support.

Los Angeles gets screwed by rich people yet again. This is not "news," of course, but it is newsworthy. My favorite bailout plan: let's rent the art to our rich friends! Yes, that one shows you the true mentality of those who run this museum - it was for themselves, all along, and they only allowed "us" to enter because it was better PR. Private art for the wealthy, public debt for everyone else. Shameful.

Strick should put together a crisis management war room of top art world and financial advisors and lay all the problems out on the table so everyone can provide input. There are many ways to raise a relatively measly $20-100 Million in a city this big and wealthy. From artists donating works for auction, to limited edition print sales (look what it did for the Obama campaign!), to donations from their board and possibly outside foundations such as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. There are many creative options available. But first Mr. Strick must accept responsibility for his actions (and inactions) and either resign or resign himself to the fact that he'll have to work his ass off, for free, to resolve this situation. Meanwhile, MoCA staff people are busy sending out their resumes while Mr. Strick hides under his desk, probably talking with his lawyers, realtor, and headhunter.

TO: HoldMoCABoardAccount
If you read the comments before mine you'll see the comments to which I was responding. Look at MOCA Mobilization on Facebook for our information.


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