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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa makes a plea to MOCA

December 18, 2008 | 11:30 am

VillaraigosaLos Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, right, weighed in publicly today on the situation at the Museum of Contemporary Art. His letter to board co-chairmen Tom Unterman and David Johnson asks that the board take time to thoroughly review its options and set aside 30 days to allow the public an opportunity to provide input before a decision is made.

MOCA is considering at least two proposals to help bail out the financially troubled downtown museum. Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has offered $15 million if the museum will match those funds, plus an additional $15 million over five years for programming. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has offered to merge with MOCA, sharing resources and facilities.   

The board is scheduled to meet this morning.

Text of the mayor's letter follows after the jump.

-- Lisa Fung

Credit: John Shearer / Getty Images

December 18, 2008

David Johnson
Tom Unterman
MOCA Board of Trustees
250 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mr. Johnson and Mr. Unterman:

I write to you and the members of the Board of Trustees at what we all agree is a
critical moment in MOCA’s history and for its future. I make the following
requests to keep faith with the civic priorities that helped launch the museum in
the heart of the city more than two decades ago:

1. No determination should be made regarding the long term structure
and financial wherewithal of the museum until the board has had an
opportunity to thoroughly review and vet proposals in writing.

2. Trustees should take 30 days to conduct a public review of the
proposals before them, allowing for input from the community and all
interested stakeholders.

This critical public review could be conducted by or in conjunction with a panel of
appointed contemporary arts experts. While MOCA’s lease agreement provides
for the appointment of such a panel, charged with ensuring that MOCA maintains
its status as “a non-profit, contemporary art museum of ‘world class’ stature’” with
a concern for the general public, after notice of potential breach, I believe that the
current crisis demands the convening of a panel now. This convening would
bolster the public’s confidence in MOCA after this crisis is resolved. Therefore, I
intend to move forward shortly to convene such a panel, and I request your

I remain committed to MOCA’s continuing presence in downtown Los Angeles,
and believe it is in the best interest of Angelenos for the Museum of
Contemporary Art to have a sustainable, vibrant future. However, MOCA is in a

Mr. David Johnson
Mr. Tom Unterman
December 16, 2008
Page 2

serious financial and institutional crisis and in significant need of management
reorganization. Any plan to preserve the museum’s long term financial health
must also maintain MOCA’s independence and require structural reform and
strict financial accountability measures. The strategic choices you make for
MOCA’s future should also have broad and deep stakeholder support, and
ensure that the Board maintains its stewardship and authority over the financial
and operational management of the museum.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of these suggestions as you strive to
address this critical issue.

Very truly yours,


Comments () | Archives (7)

Amidst maybe the worst of times here in Los Angeles its good to see that our elected officials still can give their attention to the organizations that make this city what it is today. Many would probably say that it’s only an art organization but honestly it’s a cultural pillar for our city of Los Angeles and its well being is considerably necessary.

It is a playground for the rich and spoiled art school students, no one cares as the ridiculous petition showed, only 3,300 out of a county of 8million. It is a waste of money in a time where many are already going hungry, and the arts contributed to the downfall of our economy, as it fiddled while Rome burned.

LACMA gets thousands of people,a s much to see the tar pits and fossils at that museum as the art comlex, but does have a cross section of world history for learning. Though a very mediocre level of art considering the size of LA, we got started late, most the good stuff was already taken. The Norton Simon a much higher level of quality.

Let LACMA take it, as long as no public funds go to it. Stop wasting teh Grand site, one dollar a year rent is absurd, rent it to something taht will make money for the city, like Jerry Buss for a Laker museum, anything, taht will go with the planned development. Contemppr art is cold and irreleveant, epeopl walk out going, WTF?!

Not because its intelligent, it plainly isnt, but becasue the absurdity of its ideas are amazing, but did reflect the decadence of the last few decades, especially this last one. The decadence of the rich, and spoiled, not humanity. Which is arts true purpose. Man, God, and Nature. All ignored by academic silliness.

Art collegia delenda est

LA being more a museum of the future than of the past effectively finds itself in a crisis comparable to something like "girl in front of the mirror".
LA is the tar pit type. it reflects itself in what disappears then resurfaces after life: old dynasaur bones,or talent, images in general of Rossellinis who came to find little more than joblessness shaped in an artist's end. What LA does on a universal level is to ask What to expect from Museums? These days, things such as Brando packing cotton for his Godfather screen test seems to have rendered homeless every piece of idea connected to art in this town except maybe a few El Greco and Degas right off the old Pasadena freeway, and of course Van gogh's Sower on Wilshire.
Now what should we do with Broad's millions? Nothing, period: doesn't he have a wife or a close friend who would please massage his ears with some jokes and ultimately make him stop taking silly so called contemporary art so damn seriously?

Where do we send our input? I no longer live in LA but want to express how much I care about MOCA and how much inspiration I found there during the years I did live in LA. MOCA is a unique treasure and what has managed to grow at MOCA is not possible in quite the same way in any other city. MOCA's collection and programming is arguably better than that of other highly-regarded institutions - I'm thinking MoMA and the Tate - with much greater community support and cities with a much more entrenched appreciation for contemporary art.

This is a ridiculously difficult thing to pull off. And while it seems that the other posters won't open their minds enough to let contemporary art take you where it takes you – intellectually, spiritually, etc.– and to realize that the kind of creativity and understanding about the world and oneself that contemporary art enables is of high value, there are those of us that do value it and hope it will be preserved.

I feel bad for the people who think Contemporary Art is a waste. It clearly needs to remain visible for the others who enjoy it. I don't think McDonald's is good food, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it...hey I even like their fries! DONALD FRAZEN is right! Let's get rid of this art and just get eat McDonald's all day and get fat! THIS art is bad! I didn't think so before...but my mind has been changed! LET'S BULLDOZE IT AND BUILD A LAKERS MUSEUM!

Contemporary art is tofu, Modern art is Gourmet.

In this time of a financial melt down this is not the time to use the arts for some political self serving rhetoric and play to focus the people away from the reality of
the once great city that has become the Mecca for every Mexican drug lord and gang to destroy the true culture.

Mouthing slang, slogans and Mexican rhetoric about culture is not in the best interest of harmony with all.

The problems you are headed for are bread lines, supporting unemployed also the moving of stable business which you can witness now as it will get worse and even the stimulus funds won't help.

So tighten your belts the bump in the road is getting larger


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