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$1-Million Gift Gets MOCA Art Out of Storage : Art: Grant from the Eli Broad Family Foundation will allow museum to display more of its permanent collection.

September 27, 1995|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | TIMES ART WRITER

Los Angeles art collector and cultural patron Eli Broad--who played a formative role in the creation of the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown and maintains a vast lending library of contemporary art at the Eli Broad Family Foundation in Santa Monica--is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his foundation by giving a $1-million grant to MOCA to exhibit its permanent collection. The funds are earmarked for display of the museum's holdings at its main building on Grand Avenue.

The donation stems from frustration over keeping 90% of MOCA's permanent collection in storage, Broad said. Funds cannot be used for the Temporary Contemporary outpost in Little Tokyo because the Grand Avenue building, designed by Arata Isozaki, is the museum's primary facility. That building should "provide a historical foundation for newer and related work" as well as a place where visitors can return to see their favorite pieces, he said.

MOCA Director Richard Koshalek said the most significant aspect of the gift is that it represents the continuing support of the museum's founding chairman. "The grant is an extremely important contribution that will give us an opportunity to expand our presentations of collections, including those of Phil and Bea Gersh, Taft and Rita Schreiber, Barry Lowen and Giuseppe Panza," he said.

Though restricted to the Grand Avenue building, use of the grant funds is discretionary, Broad said. "The staff can use the money to publish catalogues, for operating expenses, maintenance or however they want to allocate it." There are no requirements about how much of the collection must be on view at any one time or how much of the building must be used to display it.

"The goals of the museum and curatorial staff and Eli match perfectly," Koshalek said, noting that the Temporary Contemporary will continue to display parts of the permanent collection. "The great thing about Eli is that he understands museums and that we need flexibility," he said.

While announcing the MOCA grant, Broad also revealed a new development designed to expand his foundation's public outreach programs through electronic technology. In an effort to make its collection of some 500 works by 100 artists better-known and to offer information about the art and its creators to students all around the world, the foundation is launching a World Wide Web site. Starting today, the site will be accessible at http://www.broadartfdn.org/.

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Broad said he took both actions because of his love of contemporary art and his determination to spread the word. "This is a way I can share my passion," he said. "Since I began collecting 25 years ago, my journey has been very educational and satisfying. Wherever I travel in the world, I make connections with interesting people who are involved with art and museums. I feel good about getting people interested in contemporary art, and I think more American people should be interested in culture, as they are in Europe."

He also hopes to counteract reductions in financial support to the arts by corporations, the government and private foundations. "This is a critical time for the arts. The steps that we are taking will benefit MOCA, art institutions that borrow works from our foundation and the public at large," he said.

Broad--who is chairman and chief executive officer of Sun America Inc., a financial services firm, and founder of Kaufman & Broad Home Corp.--established his foundation about 10 years ago to build a collection of contemporary art for loan to museums and other cultural institutions. In 1988 the organization moved into a five-story, renovated telephone switching station in Santa Monica where the collection is displayed privately to museum groups, curators and scholars.

Although not open to the public, the foundation periodically hosts an invited audience at new exhibitions, as it will on Saturday and Oct. 14.

Since its inception the foundation has lent artworks to more than 200 museums, nonprofit art galleries and exhibition spaces in the United States, Europe, Asia, South American and Africa. Joanne Heyler was recently promoted to become the foundation's curator, succeeding Michele De Angelus, who resigned to join PaceWildenstein Los Angeles.

"We feel good about what we have done with the foundation," Broad said. "But the question was, where do we go from here? We decided that new technology would give us an opportunity to reach a much broader audience. Most museums' Web sites just announce their hours and current exhibitions. We're going far beyond that. We want this to be an educational tool rather than just a museum home page."

Designed to attract more foundation users as well as browsers and students, the site includes information about the foundation's formation, purpose and operation, instructions for using its services, a list of current exhibitions featuring foundation artworks, reproductions of 30 works in the collection and biographical information about the artists--including Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Anselm Kiefer.

"For us to justify the cost of the foundation, it has to be used," Broad said. "We're not interested in having art just for art insiders."

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