Friday, March 8, 2013

LACMA Proposes Merger With Struggling Museum

Struggling with financial troubles and staff and board defections, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) has been contacted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) about a potential merger.

According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, LACMA director Michael Govan and two co-chairs of his board made the offer to the MOCA board in a Feb. 24 letter. Sources who have seen the letter but were not authorized to discuss it told The Times that the proposed acquisition would preserve MOCA's two downtown LA locations and they would still operate them under the MOCA brand.

Additionally, LACMA would agree to raise $100 million for the two museums as a condition for completing the deal.

The proposed acquisition was confirmed by LACMA in a blog post on its website by Govan, who wrote that he "appreciates" the impact MOCA has on the community and desires to see that work continue as part of a successful merger.

"Combining LACMA and MOCA would strengthen both [museums]. LACMA’s mission is to share world-class art with the widest array of audiences possible," wrote Govan in the blog post. "MOCA’s downtown location, extraordinary collection and devoted constituency, combined with LACMA’s modern art masterpieces, large audiences and broad educational outreach (especially in schools near downtown L.A.) would create a cultural institution that is much more than the sum of its parts."

Founded in 1979, MOCA has fallen on hard times in recent years. According to an article in The New York Times, the 2010 hiring of Jeffrey Deitch as the museum's director was criticized, as the Manhattan art dealer was considered to be too celebrity-driven. In June of that same year, MOCA's long-time curator Paul Schimmel was forced out, and that was soon followed by a mass-exodus of board members.

Ultimately, Govan believes that a merger with LACMA would not only solve MOCA's current financial problems, it would also set the combined organization up for future success. He wrote in his blog post that the merger would open up new opportunities for visitors and donors alike.

"The scale and common purpose of the larger combined institution would provide stability, confidence, and opportunity for donors," he wrote. "Each facility and location could retain individual character and the potential to reach different audiences."

This is not the first time to two art museums have been involved in merger talks. The two institutions were discussing a deal in 2008 until philanthropist Eli Broad pledged a $30 million matching gift to MOCA, making the merger unnecessary.

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