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Broad Foundation makes payment to MOCA after controversial delay

August 29, 2012|By Mike Boehm
  • A $1.5-million payment from the Broad Foundation to L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art brings it up to date on the pledge Eli Broad, foreground, made in December 2008. Also pictured is MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch.
A $1.5-million payment from the Broad Foundation to L.A.'s Museum… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

The Broad Foundation has made a $1.5-million payment to L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art, bringing it out of arrears on Eli Broad's pledge to provide $3 million a year for MOCA's exhibitions through 2013.

Earlier this month, foundation spokeswoman Karen Denne had said that scheduled payments had been withheld because $2.1 million previously given under the agreement had not yet been spent.

Charles Young, the former chief executive Broad recruited to run MOCA on an interim basis until June 2010, when current director Jeffrey Deitch arrived, said this month that the December 2008 agreement by which Broad bailed out the financially depleted MOCA didn't allow payments to be delayed under any circumstances. Young, a former UCLA chancellor, noted that the deal gives MOCA the right to stockpile exhibition support if it chooses, rather than having to spend funds already received to qualify for more.

MOCA issued a statement acknowledging that the payment has been received, and that it's "very grateful for the [Broad] Foundation's continuing support and generosity."

Broad's $30-million pledge is split between $15 million for exhibitions over five years and an additional $15 million for the museum's endowment, to be given bit by bit, with no timetable or deadline, whenever MOCA can come up with matching endowment contributions from other sources.

For exhibitions, the Broad Foundation agreed to pay $750,000 at the start of each fiscal quarter for five years. Bloomberg News first reported that scheduled payments from the exhibition pledge had not been received.

Denne said that the Broad Foundation has now paid $17.5 million of the $30-million pledge. Still to come is $3.5 million for exhibitions and $8.75 million for the endowment.

Strained funding affected MOCA's exhibition schedule this spring when the museum announced that it had delayed the opening of a long-scheduled show, "Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974," because more time was needed for fundraising.

Pushing back the show's opening by seven weeks from early April to late May also allowed the museum to slot in a revenue-generating rental engagement, an 18-day art, music and food festival sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and curated by Beastie Boys rapper Mike D that MOCA director Deitch said would yield a six-figure sum for the museum.

In a recent interview, Philipp Kaiser, the Land art show's co-curator, said he'd been unaware at the time of the delay that unspent Broad Foundation funds apparently were available in MOCA's coffers.

"I had very contradictory information about the money" available for the exhibition, Kaiser said.

Backers took unusual measures to ensure that the exhibition, which closes Monday at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary building, would go on: Los Angeles artist Barbara Kruger created a new work on vinyl for her dealer to sell, with proceeds supporting "Ends of the Earth."

Kruger was then a MOCA trustee, but resigned in mid-July along with three other artist trustees who were unhappy about the late-June ouster of chief curator Paul Schimmel and the museum's direction under Deitch.

"The financial situation created a situation for the curators where they have to be anxious about their exhibitions, and that's weird," said Kaiser, who became a lame duck at MOCA a year ago, when it was announced he had been named director-designate of Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany.

Kaiser left MOCA as planned after the land art show opened, and will begin his new job Nov. 1.

He won't be replaced, and MOCA's roster of staff professionals experienced in overseeing exhibitions now numbers four -- Deitch and three curators -- down from nine in late 2008, when there were seven curators, a director and a deputy director.

After initially saying the museum would also leave Schimmel's post unfilled, members of the MOCA board's executive committee recently said in an email to fellow board members that money had been found to recruit and hire a new chief curator.

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