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Moca Raises $5 Million To Pay Panza Art Debt

October 14, 1987|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | Times Art Writer

Fears that the Museum of Contemporary Art might be forced to renege on a contractual commitment to Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo have been abated with the completion of a $5-million campaign to underwrite the purchase of 80 works from the Italian industrialist and art collector.

Terms of the $11-million sale, announced in 1984, called for payments of $2 million annually for five years with final payment of $1 million due in June, 1989.

The sale was widely lauded in art circles, but worries soon surfaced about the museum's ability to fulfill its financial obligation. Citing heavy start-up costs and an ongoing fund-raising efforts, some observers had speculated that MOCA might not be able to live up to the contract.

Jubilant backers of the institution now say that successful completion of the 10-month campaign allowed the museum to make a scheduled payment of $2 million in June and that it will meet remaining deadlines--$2 million in 1988 and $1 million in 1989.

"It's very happy news," said Mort Winston, chairman of the museum's acquisition committee, in a telephone interview. Winston said that about a dozen donors contributed to the fund. Characterizing all the gifts as "sizable" but of different denominations, he said the benefactors have chosen to remain anonymous.

The 80 works purchased from Panza gave the new museum an important core collection of Abstract Expressionist and Pop art. Panza has always collected in depth, and the MOCA purchase reflects that practice. Instead of surveying the whole period (1940s, '50s and '60s), the cache is composed of groups of works by nine artists.

Abstract Expressionism is represented by 39 paintings: 14 by Antonio Tapies, 12 works by Franz Kline, seven by Mark Rothko and six by Jean Fautrier. Forty-one Pop works in the collection include 16 sculptures by Claes Oldenburg and two by George Segal, 11 mixed-media works and "combines" by Robert Rauschenberg, eight paintings by James Rosenquist and four canvases by Roy Lichtenstein.

The museum was founded in 1979 and backers subsequently established an initial endowment of $14.5 million. MOCA's endowment now stands at $25 million. The museum opened in its permanent quarters on Bunker Hill in December. Some works from the Panza collection are on display there now.

MOCA also operates the Temporary Contemporary facility in Little Tokyo, which houses changing exhibitions.

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