Posts Tagged ‘philanthropy’
“If you look at history, too many great collections ended up in storage and not being shown.”[i] – Eli Broad
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.
Eli Broad’s power is tolerated because it remains remarkably unchallenged. This seemingly monopoly of philanthropic power led Christopher Knight to compare Broad to another infamous, Los Angeles art patron:
[Norton] Simon’s flirtations with giving [his] collection away (at least seven institutions); distrust of traditional museum management; engineering of a bailout of an artistically adventuresome but financially faltering institution (the old Pasadena Museum for Simon, MOCA for Broad); later deciding to open his own museum, and more…[ii]
Another similarity to Broad: Before Norton Simon’s takeover of the Pasadena Art Museum, Simon had intended to establish his collection as a lending organization. Taking control of the Pasadena Art Museum proved irresistible to Simon, and today the Norton Simon Museum rarely loans works. I seriously doubt unfounded rumors that Broad has some kind of evil master plan to takeover or somehow combine his collections with MOCA.
Broad can also be measured to his contemporaries. Los Angeles is not actually a one-philanthropist town. “Pomegranate Queen” Lynda Resnick is an easy comparison. Like Broad, Resnick is a long-time donor and trustee of LACMA. Like Broad, she and her husband provided funds ($54 million) for a Renzo-Piano-designed building at LACMA. The Lynda and Stuart Resnick Pavilion was part of Phase 2 of LACMA’s Transformation and sits directly north of BCAM. When the pavilion opened in October of 2010, one of three inaugural shows was gleaned from the Resnick’s private collection.
“Even though Eli is not involved with the museum any longer, his name is still on that building. We should have never called it a museum. How can LACMA have a museum? LACMA is the museum.”
– Lynda Resnick, LACMA Trustee[i]
In February 2008, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The Renzo Piano-designed BCAM is not an autonomous museum; it is one of several buildings on LACMA’s museum campus (the largest American art museum west of Chicago).
LACMA was founded in 1961, when it seceded from the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in Exposition Park. The new art museum opened in 1965 with three buildings designed by William Pereira: the Bing, Ahmanson and Hammer buildings. In 1986, the Art of the Americas Building (then the Anderson Building) opened, and was followed in 1988, with the Pavilion for Japanese Art. The museum continued to grow when LACMA purchased the neighboring May Company department store building in 1994. (LACMA is currently collaborating with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bring a museum to the vacant building.[ii]) In 2001, plans for a tabula rasa campus designed by Rem Koolhaas were scrapped due to its ambitious scale (all existing buildings would have been raised) and lack of public support (a proposed bill would have provided public funds for the project, but was not passed by voters[iii]). Then in 2004, the board approved a multi-year capital campaign called Transformation.[iv]
Michael Govan, Wallis Annenberg Director and CEO of LACMA, inherited Transformation when he took LACMA’s helm in 2006 (little more than a year before BCAM’s inauguration). Exciting, high profile, high-cost building projects are Govan’s specialty. Before coming to LACMA, Govan had been the director of the Dia Art Foundation where he oversaw the renovation of an old Nabisco factory in the Hudson River Valley, into Dia Beacon—a gargantuan facility capable of housing many large-scale, contemporary art installations. Before Dia, Govan worked under Richard Armstrong at the Guggenheim Foundation and aided in the realization of the Guggenheim Bilbao. Govan had the resume required to lead LACMA during Transformation. Eli Broad was on the search committee that lured Govan to LACMA.[v]
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.