After a cross-town game of musical chairs, the 2,000 piece - and still growing - Broad Art Foundation collection may finally have the one site that makes the most sense for its new home.
The Grand Avenue Authority on Monday began negotiations with the Broad Art Foundation for parcel L, immediately south of Disney Hall and across Grand Avenue from the Museum of Contemporary Art.
This decision is a radical turnaround from little more than a year ago when even MOCA remaining on Grand Avenue was seen as unlikely by some, until the Eli Broad-led bailout stabilized its finances.
The current plan for the Foundation started when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was unable to fund its ambitious expansion/redesign, and Broad stepped up to fund the first building of a more modest expansion. This was seen as an indicator he planned on leaving his art collections to LACMA.
But Broad soon appeared to realize no matter how much space was added, the majority of the collection would still remain in storage. He also appeared to understand no existing museum could realistically spend the time, money or resources for a single part of its collection to be on loan around the world when any existing museum has so many prior commitments and often-competing constituencies.
The solution was for the Broad Art Foundation collection to remain an independent entity in a new building large enough to display a significant part of the collection and to also provide the Foundation with an ample ($200 million) endowment to fund its study, preservation and touring.
Then, to honor the foundation's commitment to Los Angeles, it has been stated that LACMA and MOCA would have first call on borrowing any works of art they wished to display from the Foundation, and that the other parts of the collection would be shown at the Foundation's building on a rotating basis when they are not on loan.
This will give our local museums the ability to show anything they want from the Foundation's collection, while still allowing the rest of the collection to be seen at the Foundation's new home or to be in touring shows around the world. And with many LA artists now in that collection, that touring will help promote our local artists throughout the world.
And unlike some private museums that sometimes have very broad and consequently very thin in any one area collections as opposed to concentrated focuses, the Broad collection concentrates on specific types of contemporary art and it collects many of the finest contemporary artists in considerable depth, along with their increasingly collection of up and coming Los Angeles artists.
The Foundation's collection has already become a place where many major artist's careers can studied in depth and contrasted with the concurrent work of their peers. It is increasingly what is often called a 'study collection.' But unlike most study collections, which are filled with examples that might not normally be seen on the walls of a major museum, this collection is filled with pieces any museum would display, if they had the space or the money to buy them.
While the comparative narrowness of the Foundation's focus is its greatest strength, it does create one possible disadvantage in that viewers cannot always see these artists within the larger contexts of their time - or within the contexts of the artists who came just before or after them. There is also the possibility that such a more distilled collection might not attract the audiences that a broader, somewhat more diversified museum might.
Fortunately, the new site on Grand Avenue solves each problem. It is directly across from what is widely considered the finest contemporary art museum in the world, and the combined depth and breadth of their viewing experience will be unmatched anywhere.
This new partnership could also, potentially, free up MOCA to focus its future collecting on artists not represented in depth in the Broad. It also gives the Broad the wider historic context its collection might otherwise lack.
These two institutions will also create a unique destination - and a major tourist attraction for the greater Los Angeles area. It will be a combined cultural destination that no one with any serious interest in contemporary art will be able to miss. It will also attract cultural visitors who will patronize the other museums of greater Los Angeles, as well as collectors who will visit contemporary art gallery centers of Santa Monica, Culver City, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, as well as Downtown and Chinatown.
By the time the Broad Art Foundation opens on Grand Avenue, the combined institutions should become a rising tide that will raise all the boats of the local contemporary art world.
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