The lack of official reaction to Eli Broad's MOCA bailout is becoming worrisome. Meanwhile, the LA Times' Culture Monster blog has a motley group of comments on the MOCA crisis. The executive summary:
Someone writing as "varda," a MOCA board member (s/he claims), warns that "Lifelines offered come with many strings attached. Before you judge us so harshly, give us time to do the right thing." The implication is that Eli Broad wants to have his way with the damsel he's saving. The museum is about to go under, there's talk of selling the collection, and Broad offers $30 million so it doesn't happen. All I can say is, those must be some apeshit-crazy "strings." What's he asking, that they name it the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art?
Another poster, "Diana T." (video artist Diana Thater? or not??) writes "there is already a group within the MOCA staff unionizing together to field all the options including a class action claim that would cost the new LACMOCA millions." [One reader has just informed me that this was not posted by Diana Thater.]
Somebody named Donald Frazell really hates contemporary art's guts.
Mainly, a lot of concerned MOCA supporters are dissing the museum board as cheapskates. I think this is counterproductive. The trustees are on the board because they gave more than the people who aren't on the board. It's not easy raising money from rich people when the S&P is down to half what it was this summer.
To my mind, the most constructive comment is from Michael Buitron. I'll quote it in full:
"I can understand a board member not wanting to throw good money after bad. Besides the cash, MOCA needs some new, fiscally responsible leadership. Folding their collection into LACMA's--or worse--selling off work to stay afloat, show the utter lack of commitment to contemporary art among the board members. These folks should immediately step aside.
In a worse-case scenario, MOCA should follow the example of Europe's monasteries during the Dark Ages: pull up the bridge and hunker down until a more enlightened time arrives. In MOCA's case, this would mean putting up a multi-year show of the permanent collection, laying off the staff, and waiting for the next economic upturn when they can tap a new crop of new collector-millionaires."
Let's face it: There are only two art museums in this city such that, did they not exist, they would have to be invented. Not so coincidentally, they're the two not bearing somebody's surname. Should we somehow be stupid enough to screw things up and lose MOCA, you know darned well that, once the economy picks up, someone will have a Marcia Weisman moment. "Hey, what this city needs is a contemporary art museum, like the old MOCA, or Pasadena Art Museum."
Let's not start from zero this time. If things are really that bad (I can't conceive they are, not with Broad's offer and the groundswell of public support), then banish all thought of a LACMA-MOCA merger. Instead, lend the MOCA collection to LACMA until such a time as the economy improves and local patrons are ready to reanimate MOCA.
That is, as Buitron says, the worst-case scenario. Better that MOCA should keep its buildings (closed if necessary; otherwise showing the permanent collection) and curatorial staff (who could organize shows for LACMA and other museums during MOCA's timeout).