Billionaire art benefactor Eli Broad couldn't have picked a worse time to skip scheduled payments to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The controversy surrounding flashy museum director Jeffrey Deitch has reached a fever pitch, and the museum's financial situation appears murky at best.
Broad isn't just Deitch's most powerful ally, he's also the man who single-handedly saved MOCA from financial ruin in 2008. With Broad increasingly focussed on building his own namesake institution in downtown LA, one has to wonder: can MOCA survive without Broad's support?
This morning, Bloomberg reported that Broad skipped out on making payments to MOCA in October and January. Broad cites MOCA's $2.1 million in unspent grant money as the reason for his delayed payments, but his financial withholding seems curious at a time of such controversy.
For more well-endowed museums, one philanthropist's coming and going wouldn't raise alarm bells, but MOCA relies heavily on Broad. When the museum was in dire financial straits back in 2008, its endowment hovering at a measly $5 million, Broad stepped up and almost unilaterally saved the institution, donating $30 million to keep it afloat.
But when you're as loaded as Broad is, you don't keep all your chips in in one museum. In 2008, Broad built a contemporary extension at the Los Angeles County Art Museum called the Broad Contemporary Art Museum. The Eli and Edythe Broad Museum will open later this year at his alma mater, Michigan State University. All the while, he's been sculpting his crown jewel: The Broad, a sprawling, honeycomb structure in downtown LA that will house his personal contemporary art collection. The Broad will certainly be a formidable rival to the struggling MOCA. Some even speculate that by saving MOCA, Broad deviously laid plans to absorb the museum's collection into his own planned institution.
Put simply, MOCA needs Broad, but Broad doesn't necessarily need MOCA. If the institution doesn't find a way to bolster its finances independently from Broad—a tough challenge, with an increasing number of donors turned off by Deitch's glitzy, pop culture-baiting direction—who knows how long it can stay afloat.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.