To Live and Die in LA

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Will the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art go the way of Lehman Brothers?   The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the perenially cash-strapped MOCA is in even worse shape than people thought.  Much worse.  It has an annual budget, “in excess of $20 million”, that equals or exceeds its $20.4 million investment portfolio. Did none of the trustees at that place ever read Dickens?  “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

And this is a crisis that predates the recent stock market freefall, though obviously that hasn’t helped.  For years MOCA, one of the outstanding contemporary art museums in the U.S., has been spending down its endowment to cover ordinary operating expenses.  But it didn’t go into crisis response mode until this week.

Yesterday MOCA Director Jeremy Strick held an emergency meeting with trustees to explore ways to save their sinking ship.  Today on the Times culture blog, their art critic Christopher Knight is reporting that MOCA is preparing to approach the Los Angeles County Museum of Art about a merger that would result in MOCA’s great contemporary art collection being moved to the LACMA campus.

Knight’s excellent take down of the MOCA trustees is in today’s Times.  And over at Modern Art Notes, blogger Tyler Green got a chance to ask LACMA Director Michael Govan yesterday if his museum would be willing to acquire the MOCA holdings.  And Govan would not quite shut the door on the idea.