Jewish Journal

Eli Broad baffles LACMA

by Danielle Berrin

January 8, 2008 | 1:54 pm

While everybody in New Hampshire marches to the polls in a circus deluge of presidential campaigning, LACMA is embroiled in a potential dispute with Eli Broad over his 2,000 piece contemporary art collection. Apparently, despite LACMA’s new and pricey “Broad Contemporary Art Museum,” the billionaire has chosen to loan his collection instead of donating it. Valued between $100-$200 million, Mr. Broad does not want to see his precious paintings gathering dust in storage, and LACMA won’t promise to keep the artwork permanently displayed.

Edward Wyatt writes in The New York Times:

The decision is a striking reversal by Mr. Broad, who as recently as a year ago said that he planned to give most of his holdings to one or several museums.


The decision also has far-reaching implications for the way museums interact with big donors. In recent years a dizzying rise in art prices and an abiding institutional thirst for acquisitions have given well-heeled donors more influence over what a museum buys and puts on its walls.


In an interview in his foundation’s office here, Mr. Broad (whose name rhymes with road) said he did not view his decision as a vote of no confidence in the museum. Rather, he said, it represents no less than a new paradigm for the way museums in general collect art and interact with one another.

“I think it’s a new model that makes sense for other collections,” he said. “If it was up to me, I believe that museums ought to own works jointly.” Mr. Broad encouraged that practice last year with his purchase of a work by the artist Chris Burden, which he then gave jointly to the county museum and another Los Angeles institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art, where he was a founding trustee.

His decision not to donate his holdings evolved over the last year, Mr. Broad said, as his collection grew, and it became clear that no museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art included, would commit to placing a large percentage of the works on permanent exhibit.

The collection has roughly doubled in size in the last five years and includes personal holdings and those of the Broad Art Foundation. Among the best-known works are some by contemporary artists including Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons,  Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari, as well as earlier art-world titans like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg.

“We don’t want it to end up in storage, in either our basement or somebody else’s basement,” Mr. Broad said. “So I, as the collector, am saying, ‘If you’re not willing to commit to show it, why don’t we just make it available to you when you want it, as opposed to giving it to you, and then our being unhappy that it’s only up 10 percent or 20 percent of the time or not being shown at all?’”


Mr. Broad took pains to make clear that the county museum would be “the favored institution” when it came to loans from the Broad Art Foundation. “If it weren’t going to be favored, I wouldn’t have given it $50 million to build the building,” he said.


(photo courtesy forbes.com)

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Written by Danielle Berrin and Dikla Kadosh

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