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MOCA looks on the bright side of 30

November 12, 2009 |  4:24 pm

Moca2 A couple hundred museum supporters and members of the press jammed the foyer of the Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday morning to hear remarks in advance of a preview of "Collection: MOCA's First Thirty Years." The show -- 500 works by 200 artists, drawn from the museum's exceptional permanent collection -- fills both the main building and the Geffen Contemporary, the museum's warehouse space in Little Tokyo.

The press event inaugurates several days of special previews for the show, which opens to the public Sunday. (I'll have a review of the exhibition early next week.) Admission is free through Friday, Nov. 20, thanks to underwriting from Ovation TV.

Not surprisingly, given MOCA's horrifying near-collapse 11 months ago from many years of living far beyond its means, today's speechifying focused like a laser on the upbeat. Eli Broad, whose foundation stepped in with a $15-million matching grant plus $15-million for programming, acted as emcee.

“MOCA has no debt,” he said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa thanked Broad and other assembled trustees for “the turn-around.” Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes the museum, enthused, “What a difference a year makes!”

Interim CEO (and former UCLA Chancellor) Charles Young, chief curator Paul Schimmel and gala chair and trustee Maria Bell also spoke. Bell said Saturday night's gala, "designed" by Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli, should gross $3.5 million from a thousand guests, making the event MOCA’s biggest fundraiser ever. Everyone seem pleased.

They have good reason to be, given the magnitude of what was almost lost. Tough work followed in the last year, including a downsized staff and trimmed exhibition program. And MOCA is not out of the woods yet; fund-raising continues in a very difficult economic environment while the search for a director has just begun.

Still, there's reason for optimism. And all the difficulties are very easy to forget when you're in the galleries looking at the art.

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: Eli Broad speaks at the press preview for "Collection: MOCA's First Thirty Years," with Mark Rothko's 1953 painting "No. 61" hanging on the wall behind him. Credit: Christopher Knight/Los Angeles Times

Related stories:

MOCA pyramid MOCA's biggest exhibition to celebrate 30th anniversary

MOCA faces serious financial problems

MOCA has gifts, officers and trustees; pronounces finances fixed

MOCA celebrates 30 years and a rebirth

Comments () | Archives (2)

I hope it is better lit and stronger work than the last show, with thousands of human fake eyelashes sewn together and other such absurdities to amuse those with too much time and money on their hands.

The best show MoCA ever had was that first one with many of these same works all those years ago at the Temporary Contemporary, which had beautiful lighting for the Rothkos and others. Til ruined by Gehry, painted over skylights, with huge, awkward areas to spotlight weak works. It lost its comfortable humanity, and became a sterile plalyground. As is the main buidling, far too large, far too high of walls, far too arrogant architects thinking themselves sculptors, instead of creating flow and ease and well lit buildings for a purpose, One failing in contemporary arts architecture, which are about glorifying the patrons. Mausoleums, not museums.

art collegia delenda est

Has anyone noted the reek of mildew at the main MOCA? I could barely stand it. Does the problem have a serious fungus problem?


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