Where Will David Geffen's Art Collection Go?
Geffen's name is also on MOCA's Geffen Contemporary, a naming right that went for a mere $5 million in 1996. The naming, then seen as a gesture that might lead to future donations of art, was controversial. "They sold out much too cheap," complained gallerist Margo Leavin at the time.
But Eli Broad felt it was "perfectly appropriate for someone making that size gift who has a great collection." Calling naming opportunities "the American way," Broad described Geffen, who is gay, as "a man who is single, who doesn't have any children, and probably will have another three-quarters of a billion dollars to give away… Hopefully some of David's art will come to MOCA too."
It didn't. In fact Geffen has had little visible involvement with MOCA since. It's rumored that he objected to Broad's heavy-handed control of the MOCA board in the 1990s and 2000s.
In 2006 Geffen sold major paintings by Pollock, De Kooning, and Johns, leading to speculation that he was liquidating the entire collection and/or trying to buy the L.A. Times. So far he's done neither. It's said that Geffen has less than 50 major works, tiny as billionaire collections go, but each of exceptional quality.
Geffen also has ties to the Museum of Modern Art. He gave them $100 million last year. That, along with a $100 million gift to the New York Philharmonic, led some New Yorkers to assume Geffen had abandoned L.A. and would be focusing his philanthropy on his hometown. A New York Times piece last year said that "Mr. Geffen will ultimately leave his art collection, valued at more than $2 billion, to his foundation, which will give the pieces to institutions or sell them and donate the proceeds to his main causes: culture, medicine and education."
On one point there's agreement: Geffen's collection is the best in L.A. "Piece for piece, work for work, there's no collection that has better representation of postwar American art than David Geffen's. Period," said Paul Schimmel. "It is to postwar American Art what the Frick Collection is to Old Master painting."
Dealer Richard Polsky said: "I'd rather have his collection than Eli Broad's."