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It's official: Eli Broad will build his art museum downtown; Diller Scofidio + Renfro will design [Updated]

August 23, 2010 |  1:46 pm

Broadsite2 Eli Broad officially confirmed Monday what many Los Angeles area officials and art-world leaders were expecting: The billionaire philanthropist and his wife, Edythe, will build their new contemporary art museum, the Broad Collection, on Grand Avenue in downtown L.A.

The announcement not only represents the culmination of a years-long process in which Broad considered building in locations in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, but also settles the larger question of where his coveted art collection – which had been the envy of museums around the country – will ultimately reside.

Broad said Monday that Grand Avenue had been his top choice and that the museum will help turn downtown into a “vibrant center” for the city’s cultural community.

“I think we’re going to create a downtown cultural alliance,” said Broad, referring to the site’s proximity to the Music Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art. He added that he hopes the museum will jump-start the long-stalled Grand Avenue Project — a costly initiative intended to revitalize the downtown neighborhood with stores, hotels, condominums and restaurants.

La-et-broad-museum Broad also announced Monday that he has chosen the New York architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design the approximately 120,000-square-foot museum, which will include exhibition space, offices and a parking garage. The Broad Foundation said the designs would not be released until October.

The price tag for construction is estimated at $80 million to $100 million, which Broad will fund.

Construction on the parking garage is scheduled to start in October. The museum construction is set to begin in the spring, with a completion expected in late 2012. The Broad Art Foundation will relocate from Santa Monica to the new museum downtown.

Monday’s announcement came just after the Grand Avenue Authority officially approved Broad’s proposal for the museum. It was the last hurdle that the billionaire had to clear for the project to officially begin. The five-member panel voted unanimously to approve the museum.

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who chairs the panel, said she hopes the new Broad museum will help transform Grand Avenue “to the full grandeur that we’d like to see.”

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who also sits on the panel, joked with Broad after Monday’s session, saying that “we don’t always work together well, but in this case, we did.”

The Broads are expected to put in close to $300 million of their own money toward the museum. In addition to the construction costs, they will endow the Broad Art Foundation with $200 million to cover the new museum’s annual operating expenses.

They will also pay $7.7 million for a 99-year lease of the public land, which is located near the corner of Grand Ave. and 2nd Street.

In choosing Diller Scofidio + Renfro as the lead architect, Broad said he considered the museum’s location, which is close to Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry. “We didn’t want it to clash, but we didn’t want it to be anonymous either,” said Broad.

The other finalist in the running was the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, led by Rem Koolhas.
The Santa Monica firm Gensler will serve as the executive architect on the project.

Broad is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading high-end collectors. With approximately 2000 works of art, Broad’s holdings range from Pop Artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtensteinto L.A. artists working today like Ed Ruscha, Mike Kelley, Mark Bradford, Mark Grotjahn and Elliott Hundley. He is known for collecting in depth, not just breadth.

Robin Cembalest, executive editor of ARTnews, says he’s been on the magazine’s “top ten” list of international collectors every year since it started in 1998. “Other people come and go from the top 10. But he has consistently been making substantial acquisitions of major artworks”.

In deciding to build his own museum, Broad is following in the footsteps of other California mega-collectors like Norton Simon and J. Paul Getty. But they built their institutions decades ago, before there were so many museums on the L.A. landscape.

Today, three of the most prominent museums in Southern California – the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, MOCA and the Hammer Museum – compete with each other for donors and visitors. And all have benefited from Broad’s patronage at one point or another, most notably with Broad financing a Renzo Piano building in his name at LACMA, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, which opened in 2008.
The philantrophist also stepped in to rescue MOCA with a $30 million pledge when that museum was on the financial brink in 2008.

Broad’s new museum raises many questions, not the least of which there is enough of an audience for contemporary art here to support so many museums. The future relationship between the new museum and MOCA also remains unclear.

When asked if there will be collaborative efforts between the two institutions, Broad, who serves as a co-founding chairman and life trustee of MOCA, replied the he is “sure there will be.”

Broad said Monday that he decided against giving his collection to a museum because none had sufficient gallery space to display the artwork.

The Broad Collection is expected to display approximately 300 works from Broad’s collection at any given time in its 50,000 square feet of gallery space.

During the lengthy approval process, Broad’s museum faced opposition from Shen Yun Performing Arts, a dance group that has strong ties with the Falun Gong sect. The group wanted to build a theater space and residential tower on the Grand Ave. site and claimed that officials weren’t giving them a fair hearing.

But on Monday, a representative from the group addressed the Grand Ave. Authority and effectively conceded defeat.

-- David Ng and Jori Finkel

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