MOCA promotes gala, courts donors in Europe
"MOCA New" is the name that leaders of the Museum of Contemporary Art have given to what they hope will be the weekend of the fall season for the international art set.
Given that the biggest and most persistent headlines out of the downtown L.A. museum since last fall have been about organizational turmoil, fiscal near-collapse and subsequent downsizing, the Nov. 13-15 gala has a lot to accomplish in reshaping perceptions and bolstering finances. Packed into those days will be a 30th anniversary celebration (MOCA's founders began their planning in 1979 and opened the museum in 1983), some much-needed fundraising, and the Nov. 14 opening of "Collection: The First 30 Years," the largest show ever mounted of works from MOCA's holdings of post-World War II art.
To spread the word about the gala and MOCA's comeback from the brink, a team of benefactors and top staffers hopped between the season's two big events on the contemporary art scene, the Venice Biennale exhibition in Italy, and the Art Basel fair in Switzerland. With "MOCA New" co-chairs Eli Broad and Maria Bell and their spouses as hosts, it was lunch for 100 invited guests in Venice on June 3. Then the Broads sprung for dinner for 50 on Monday in Basel.
Reached in Basel on Wednesday, Broad said the thrust of the gatherings, and of separate briefings for art writers, was to repaint the MOCA picture, replacing the gloomy headlines of six and seven months ago. "Our pitch was very simple: `This is MOCA New,'" he said, with fiscal stability restored and all efforts pointing toward the November bash, in which a sweeping exhibition of 500 artworks will celebrate both the museum's past and its renewed prospects.
"It will be an amazing turnaround in one year," said Broad, whose bailout offer to MOCA totals $30 million -- $15 million over five years to help fund exhibitions, and $15 million more to help rebuild the endowment that museum leaders nearly depleted during years of dipping into savings to pay operating expenses. Broad's endowment pledge will be paid gradually, in a dollar-for-dollar match of money MOCA is expected to raise from other sources.
Among those receiving the word at the meals, Broad said, were Viktor Pinchuk, a leading Ukrainian industrialist and collector, along with "people from Moscow, the U.K., the continent, all the major collectors and art people."
Naomi Campbell was one of the meals-with-MOCA guests, and Broad said he gave Brad Pitt a heads-up about the gala when he huddled with the actor in Basel to impart some art-collecting advice.
Broad said the gala will be reminiscent of the one that launched Disney Hall in 2003, with a big party tent set up on a closed-off Grand Avenue, and tables-for-10 inside going for up to $100,000 each.
"We already have a number of $100,000 commitments," Broad said, predicting that the celebration would draw as many as 800 guests, enabling MOCA to reap a "seven-figure" fundraising return after expenses.
Making up MOCA's staff delegation to Europe were chief curator Paul Schimmel, chief executive Charles Young, deputy museum director Ari Wiseman, and head fundraiser Jennifer Arceneaux. MOCA also sent along 1,000 brochures about "MOCA New," aiming to alert prospective attendees and the international press, spokeswoman Lyn Winter said.
-- Mike Boehm
Photo: Eli Broad. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times