Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘Bunker Hill

Chapter 3 (Part 6): Private Collector Museum Conclusions

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“If you look at history, too many great collections ended up in storage and not being shown.”[i] – Eli Broad

The Great Tactician.

The Great Tactician.

Eli Broad, like Alice Walton, the Fishers and George Lucas, has a long history with the city in which he practices his “venture philanthropy.” Broad was not born in Los Angeles, but like the Fishers in San Francisco, he has a long involved history with existing arts and cultural institutions. He has sat and currently sits on the boards of many art museums. Like the Fishers, Lucas and Walton, his decision to build a museum to house his art collection is motivated (partially) by his commitment to his city. But Broad is also doing something in addition to what the Fishers, Lucas and Walton did with their museums; he is utilizing his museum project as leverage for further economic growth. Sure Walton sees Crystal Bridges as having a positive economic effect on Bentonville, but there is nothing in Bentonville: Crystal Bridges is the local economy. Broad is building his museum, not in a rural city, but in the second-most highly populated city in America. Los Angeles already has the strongest brand of any city in the world, and an existing diversified economy. Sure, part of Los Angeles’ economy depend on arts and culture, but it arguably has plenty of existing organizations and venues. If Eli Broad had attempted to build his museum in a place like San Francisco, he might have come up against more public opposition as did the Fishers and Lucas.

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Chapter 2 (Part 1): The Grand Avenue Project, Arrested (Re)Development

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Eli can be a real pain in the ass.”[i] – Frank Gehry, architect, Walt Disney Concert Hall

Grand Avenue framed by Disney Concert Hall.

Grand Avenue framed by Disney Concert Hall.

Eli Broad’s dealings with MOCA coincided and aligned to renewed, old interests in downtown Los Angeles. Broad served as chairman of the Grand Avenue Committee, an advisory body formed in 2000, responsible for planning and overseeing a massive $3 billion redevelopment plan for an area along Grand Avenue and Bunker Hill originally estimated to be completed in 2009.

In the previous decade, Broad had been instrumental in the realization of Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The widely recognized structure was designed by Frank Gehry in his now iconic style of undulating silver forms. Lillian Disney (wife of Walt) initiated the concert hall project in 1987, with an initial gift of $50 million.[ii]  It would take 16 years and another $224 million to complete the project.  The County of Los Angeles provided the land and $116 million in funding toward a six-level subterranean parking garage beneath Gehry’s building.   By the mid 1990’s, after years of sagging economy, the garage was the only complete portion of the project—capped with a  vacant slab of concrete.[iii] Enter Eli Broad and his fundraising partner-in-crime, Mayor Richard Riordan.  Both men personally contributed $5 million to revive the building campaign, and Broad helmed the fundraising effort and raised an additional $120 million dollars from private and corporate contributors in three years.[iv] Walt Disney Concert Hall finally opened in 2003.

Another Broad beneficiary located on Grand Avenue is Central Los Angeles Area High School #9, now called the Ramon C. Corteines School of Visual and Performing Arts. In 2001, Broad had encouraged school officials to build an architectural statement and create a school focused on visual and performing arts education, rather than the originally planned, modestly-priced, $87 million campus.[v]  Broad initially agreed to contribute to the project, but later threatened to withhold funding if the school did not operate as a charter high school as he saw fit.[vi]  The campus welcomed its first class in 2009 with a price tag of roughly $230 million.  Broad’s mission with the High School was accomplished: another architectural monument and another piece of Grand Avenue complete.

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Chapter 1 (Part 3): MOCA’s White Knight

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“I had no intention of getting involved in MOCA, until it got into trouble[i]
– Eli Broad

In fall 2008, a long-term beneficiary of Eli Broad’s largesse was in alarming financial trouble; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) could no longer hide its vertiginous financial mess.  In an article titled “L.a.’s Moca In Deep Financial Trouble,” the Los Angeles Times reported MOCA had mismanaged its finances for more than a decade.[ii]  The board of trustees had almost completely drained the $200 million endowment by regularly dipping into it to cover costs of expensive exhibitions and operating overhead; overspending an average $1 million a year since 2000.[iii]  The public was shocked and enraged; consequently, there was a rapid exodus of board members.[iv] MOCA needed a hero with a rescue plan.

LACMA’s Michael Govan proposed one rescue plan: a partnership in which MOCA would maintain its independence and retain at least one of its venues (the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo) and in exchange MOCA would share its collection with LACMA.[v]  Details of the offer were never fully disclosed, but it seemed to be Govan’s attempt to secure a large and well-regarded contemporary art collection for LACMA, and a way to reduce (if not eliminate) LACMA’s need of the Broad collections.

Govan’s offer seemed to be the final straw in the already strained relationship between him and Broad.  Broad openly chastised Govan in the Los Angeles Times for his proposed merger plan, and curiously quoted the film Jerry McGuire to demand, “Show me the money.”[vi] Broad had proposed his own rescue plan and was offering a $30 million lifeline to MOCA.  Govan was meddling in his plans.

Eli Broad in the first museum he founded on Grand Avenue.

Eli Broad in the first museum he founded on Grand Avenue.

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Chapter 1 (Part 1): One Eli Broad Too Many, Or Not Enough?

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“Eli is not the problem. The problem is that we don’t have enough Elis in Los Angeles to balance out his generosity and the power of his influence.”[i]Ann Philbin, Director, Hammer Museum

A vestigial Victorian on Bunker Hill in 1966.

A vestigial Victorian on Bunker Hill in 1966.

Photographs of Los Angeles from fifty years ago capture an unfamiliar city. In the 1960s, downtown’s Bunker Hill was still occupied by a row of quiet Victorian houses. Since then, the Victorians have been cleared away and the city has experienced a population boom often illustrated as a mushroom cloud-shaped diagram, and now boasts a population of 9.86 million.[ii] While established in many ways, Los Angeles’s philanthropic culture is still in its infancy.  Despite ranking the second most populous city in America, the quantity of powerful philanthropists is insignificant at best.  Those who are active give to educational, environmental, health, and political causes.

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Introduction (Part 2): The Veil, the Vault and the Avenue

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“The museum’s ‘veil’ lifts at its corners, welcoming visitors in.”[i]
– Elizabeth Diller, Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, architects, The Broad

Conceptual Rendering of the “Veil and the Vault” by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Conceptual Rendering of the “Veil and the Vault” by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

The new, $100 million museum will be called The Broad, after its founder, local philanthropist Eli Broad.  The sure-to-be-iconic building houses 50,000 square feet of exhibition and storage space for the Broad collections, and is designed by world-renowned architecture firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro.  It will be located on Grand Avenue in downtown, and will sit directly across from both Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).  It is a testament to Broad’s generosity and also to his ability to negotiate a public-private project. Read the rest of this entry »