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Broad says downtown art museum would draw better than one in Santa Monica

May 6, 2010 | 10:16 am

Broad Eli Broad says he still hasn't decided between Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles as a site for a new museum to house his contemporary art collection.

But in a conversation Wednesday with Times editorial board members and reporters, Broad made his first public comments suggesting a preference, and downtown at the southwest corner of 2nd Street and Grand Avenue, next to Walt Disney Concert Hall and across from the Museum of Contemporary Art, would seem to be it.

"Santa Monica we haven't ruled out, by the way," Broad said after outlining how a Grand Avenue museum would help fulfill his longstanding vision of building up downtown L.A. as a magnet for economic growth and cultural tourism. "But it's not like being downtown if you want to draw the biggest possible audience."

Broad, L.A.'s leading arts philanthropist, with a net worth Forbes magazine estimates at $5.7 billion, said that if the review process goes smoothly, work on a downtown museum could begin in July, with an opening as soon as the summer of 2012.

If negotiations fail, he could turn to the 2.5-acre parcel next to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The Santa Monica City Council in March approved an agreement in principle to lease the city-owned land to Broad for $1 a year while also contributing $1 million toward design costs. Broad would pay the rest, an estimated $50 million to $70 million. Final approval would await an environmental review and a vetting of the building plan.

The downtown Los Angeles site is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Avenue Committee, which oversees a $3-billion development project that's been stalled by the poor economy, and the city of Los Angeles' Community Redevelopment Agency, which owns the land.

For the downtown museum, Broad envisions a 120,000-square-foot building to display and store his 2,000-piece collection, which includes works by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In return for a 99-year lease on the land at $1 a year — the same terms as the Santa Monica agreement — Broad would pay the full construction cost, estimated at $100 million. At either site, he would provide a $200-million endowment that he expects would generate $11 million to $12 million annually to pay the museum's operating expenses.

The redevelopment agency has asked Broad to provide a $20-million, long-term loan to build a 300-space public parking garage.

Broad said his museum's director will be Joanne Heyler, director and chief curator of the Broad Art Foundation. The foundation now operates out of a Santa Monica building, lending works to museums and university art galleries around the world. While exhibition plans aren't yet in place, Broad said that as many as 300 works would be on display at any one time, with rotating selections from his collection in the museum's 38,000 square feet of gallery space.

The aim, he said, would be to cap admission charges at $10 for the downtown museum and admit children free. MOCA's incoming director, Jeffrey Deitch, has privately and publicly urged Broad to build his museum downtown; Broad said that, while there are no agreements in place with MOCA, he envisions cooperative arrangements, such as free admission to the Broad museum for all MOCA visitors.

Broad envisions more than 200,000 visitors a year at his museum and estimates that, together with MOCA's venues — the headquarters on Grand Avenue and the Geffen Contemporary to the east near 1st Street and Central Avenue — total visits could reach 500,000. MOCA's attendance fell to 149,000 during 2009 as the Geffen Contemporary remained closed for most of the year to save money following a 2008 budget crisis that ended with Broad pledging $30 million to help shore up MOCA's finances.

To bring in big crowds, Broad said, his museum would likely devote $1 million to $1.5 million a year to advertising and marketing, aiming to promote "the whole Grand Avenue experience." On Grand Avenue, his museum would join MOCA, the Music Center and Disney Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Colburn School of Music, the new arts high school across the Hollywood Freeway and the $56-million park that will slope down from Grand Avenue to City Hall. The park awaits an expected groundbreaking in June. Other major downtown cultural attractions include the Japanese American National Museum and El Pueblo de Los Angeles.

Broad was accompanied at Wednesday's meeting by Nelson Rising and Antonia Hernandez, the chair and vice chair of the Grand Avenue Committee, and Stephen Rountree, president of the Music Center. Rountree said that if Broad's museum were built on Grand Avenue it would help create "a critical mass of art and architecture downtown," and complement the efforts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Opera to cultivate younger audiences.

 — Mike Boehm

Related

Broad museum plan for downtown L.A. gets mixed reviews

Critic's notebook: what L.A. might ask of Eli Broad

Santa Monica still pursuing Eli Broad's museum

Photo: Eli Broad. Credit: Ann Cusack / Los Angeles Times

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