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MOCA's board of trustees: A house divided

November 29, 2008 |  9:00 am

Ten days have passed since news broke of a financial crisis that threatens the very existence of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the nation's premier institution focused on the art of our time. And a week has passed since philanthropist Eli Broad published an Opinion article in The Times that offered $30 million to begin to help shore up and eventually stabilize MOCA's endowment. His reasonable condition: Some of that challenge must be met by others.

So far, MOCA's board of trustees has remained virtually silent on Broad's bold proposition.

Gordon_mattaclark_splitting_1974_4 I've had conversations with numerous people close to the situation in recent days. Two things are apparent about where MOCA's board stands right now.

First, as a body they are paralyzed. Partly it's because factions are pointing the ship in several different directions at once. There isn't yet a unanimity -- or even a strong plurality -- concerning the institutional goal. The paralysis, it appears, is allowing a drift toward the path of least resistance: an absorption of MOCA into the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Second, many are suspicious of Broad's challenge. Even those who see it as the best path to resolution are cautious. They fear an ulterior motive or hidden agenda, even though there is no indication of one.

Fears are always irrational. In fact, the absence of a hidden motive may be letting imaginations run free, which is keeping full consideration of the challenge off the table. That's a pity.

As Broad wrote in his Opinion article: “It is vital that [MOCA] remain on Grand Avenue, keep its collection and continue its tradition of world-class exhibitions.”

He's right.

--Christopher Knight

Photo: Gordon Matta-Clark's "Splitting," a 1974 project in which he sawed a house in half, was shown in the artist's retrospective at MOCA in 2007. Credit: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

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