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Leaders of LACMA's Art Museum Council quit en masse over fee hikes

November 29, 2012|By Jori Finkel
  • Founded in 1952, LACMA's Art Museum Council funded acquisitions such as this 1964 Calder sculpture called "Hello Girls."
Founded in 1952, LACMA's Art Museum Council funded acquisitions… (Alexander Calder estate…)

Diana Gutman, chairwoman of the Art Museum Council at LACMA, says the group's 40-member board has voted unanimously to stop volunteering at the museum next year because of its plans to triple council members' fees

As the museum announced this week, members who once paid a minimum of $400 to participate on various councils (or $450 for this particular council) will be required to pay $1,000 plus a $250-level membership starting next June. The Art Museum Council, which has some 200 members, is one of 10 such museum support groups -- the only one raising money for museum acquisitions and exhibitions across the board and not for a specific department.

In an email Thursday explaining the decision, Gutman wrote, "The Art Museum Council of LACMA is a very diverse, hands-on group. Our AMC Board of Directors voted to withdraw from LACMA rather than discriminate against any of our members who would be unable to pay the exorbitant increase to stay in our council. We do not believe in leaving anyone out of our group."

Museum director Michael Govan explained this week that he was raising dues for the 10 art councils, support groups that help with acquisitions and exhibitions, to bring them "more in line with other museums nationally."  He also said that their boards would be dissolved, shifting responsibility for fundraising and event-planning to curators and the in-house development staff.

The Art Museum Council also faces another change. Gutman said she was told in November the rental gallery and program they operated for decades, renting art to private homes and firms with an eye toward sales, was being discontinued.

Founded in 1952 before LACMA even had its Wilshire campus, the Art Museum Council is LACMA's oldest support group. Early on it acquired major paintings by Josef Albers, Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian and Stuart Davis. It also commissioned an Alexander Calder mobile for the LACMA campus -- called "Hello Girls" as a nod to the women on the council. One of its leading fundraisers was a yearly "Art and Architecture" tour taking visitors into collectors' home.

Gutman ended her email by saying, "Our group is determined to stay together and to find another avenue that will allow us to continue to support emerging artists, beginning collectors and the art community at large. Our 60-year legacy of service to LACMA [can be] seen in the massive number of works we purchased that hang on the museum walls and the magnificent Calder mobile that cheerfully greets visitors."

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