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Former trustees rejoin MOCA

Two who left last year return as the museum announces it has raised

September 26, 2009|Diane Haithman

A Museum of Contemporary Art trustee who left the board last year amid revelations of the museum's dire financial problems said that his confidence in the leadership of philanthropist Eli Broad, whose Broad Foundation offered the museum a bailout gift of $30 million in December, has led to his decision to rejoin the board.

On Thursday the museum announced it has raised nearly $60 million, including Broad's gift, since December.

Included in that announcement was news that former music industry executive Gilbert B. Friesen and art collector and restaurateur Peter Morton, co-founder of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, have rejoined the board. Friesen and Morton were among nine trustees who resigned in 2008.

In an interview, Morton said Broad's commitment to the museum caused him to rethink his decision. The fundraising total includes December's $30-million pledge from the Broad Foundation, $16.4 million in trustee gifts, $3 million from individual patrons, $6.7 million from the museum's annual fund and $3.8 million in trustee dues.

"What prompted me to leave was some organizational issues which I'd rather not expand on -- I think most people are aware of them," Morton said. What prompted his return, he said, was "confidence in Eli Broad and what he's already done and what's going to be done in the future. . . . I had drinks with Gil Friesen and Eli one evening, and I walked away from that thinking I was really impressed with Eli's vision -- I really made a decision right there. MOCA is one of the leading museums in the world in contemporary art, and I really felt like becoming part of it again."

The $30-million bailout from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation included a challenge grant of $15 million to MOCA's endowment fund and provides $3 million per year for exhibition support for five years. Broad also became involved in bringing in former UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young as MOCA's first-ever chief executive to oversee a financial overhaul and the search for a replacement for MOCA Director Jeremy Strick, who resigned in December (and was quickly recruited as director of the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas).

The museum also announced a long list of co-chairs for its 30th-anniversary gala Nov. 14, including chairs Maria Arena Bell and Broad, as well as honorary gala chairs Larry Gagosian and Dasha Zhukova. Young said the museum hopes the gala event -- which will include a new performance work conceived by artist Francesco Vezzoli and starring Lady Gaga and dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet -- will raise $3 million.

Young said in an interview that the fundraising total, raised in less than a year, is reason for optimism in the wake of the monetary crisis that resulted in staff layoffs and canceled exhibitions. "I think it means we've come a long way, and we've got a long way to go."

The museum also announced the election of two new trustees -- Lilly Tartikoff, president of H. Beale Co., which produces film and television, and Nancy Marks, an arts and education supporter who previously served on the boards of American Ballet Theatre and the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation.

Young confirmed that the Geffen Contemporary will reopen as previously announced on Nov. 15 with a major exhibition showcasing more than 500 artworks and more than 200 artists from the museum's permanent collections.

diane.haithman@latimes.com

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