MOCA Reaches $100 Million Fundraising Goal

6:23 PM PST 01/07/2014 by Maxwell Williams
AP Photo/Nick Ut

The downtown Los Angeles museum, set to name a new director imminently, finally stabilizes after years of financial and political tension.

Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has had a financially and politically fraught recent history play out in the public, so the news that it had attained its fundraising goal of $100 million is welcome indeed for the city’s arts community. Tack on top of that the news that their search for a new director is coming to a close -- MOCA board of trustees co-chair David G. Johnson, on a conference call with The Hollywood Reporter, says it will be a “relatively short time period” until they can announce a replacement for Jeffrey Deitch, one of the most polarizing figures in the Los Angeles art world, who left MOCA last year.

MOCA’s difficult financial history has long been documented, epitomized by philanthropist Eli Broad’s life-saving $30 million bailout in 2008. The new $100 million endowment campaign, though, comes from a list of 29 individuals, including board members Daniel Leob, of Third Point LLC; Susan Gersh (and her husband, The Gersh Agency's David Gersh); producer Darren Star; and restaurateur Peter Morton. “Almost all the board members joined in the campaign,” says Johnson, a lawyer and documentary film producer who has been MOCA’s co-chairman since 2008. “We are continuing to raise money. We’re in mid-process with a number of people, so we’re continuing to raise more.” MOCA has set their next fundraising goal at $150 million.

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“This endowment puts us in a very good position for financial stability going forward,” Johnson says. “The museum has one of the greatest contemporary art collections in the world. It also has extraordinary programming. But it never has had an endowment that allowed a significant amount of the funds needed not to have to be raised from zero every year. It puts its endowment in line with or better than most contemporary art museums in the country. The museum has no debt at all.”

Johnson and his co-chairwoman Maria Bell, a novelist, producer and former showrunner for daytime drama The Young & the Restless, were set to step down as co-chairs when their terms had expired this past summer, but the board asked the duo to work with interim director Maria Seferian to finalize the fundraising effort. They will officially step down on Jan. 14 to make way for new co-chairs Maurice Marciano and Lilly Tartikoff Karatz.

The as-yet-unannounced incoming director will enter into a much more stable situation than Deitch left with. The 14-member search committee features the four former artist board members -- John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha -- who split from the museum during Deitch’s tenure. “The director search has been a very careful process,” Johnson says. “We’ve talked about wonderful candidates and been very gratified in the interest level of some of the best candidates for this kind of position internationally.”

MOCA is gearing up for a major retrospective exhibition of the work of the late L.A. artist Mike Kelley, which is set to open on March 31.

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