How LACMA Lost the Simms Collection

Frantisek Kupka, Girl Shading Her Eyes, about 1908. J. Paul Getty Museum, gift of Dr. Richard A. Simms in memory of James N. Wood
The Forward has a longform profile of Dr. Richard A. Simms, collector of prints and drawings whose interests range from James Ensor to Charles White and center on Käthe Kollwitz. The second part of the article, by Allan M. Jalon, tells of Simms' 1998 break with LACMA, which ultimately led him to place his 650-piece collection with the Getty Research Institute. According to Jalon, the story involves a patronizing spreadsheet in a memo signed by Eli Broad.

Simms, a Harbor City dentist, was for a time LACMA's only African-American trustee. He gave the museum over 50 prints and drawings and helped establish its Collectors Committee. But in 1998 an internal memo contained a spreadsheet identifying trustees by various categories. Simms was categorized as "minority" but not as a "collector." He felt that indicated the museum regarded him as a token rather than a serious collector.

LACMA's directorship, then split between Andrea Rich and Graham Beal in an unusual arrangement, did nothing to talk Simms out of resigning. (Broad said through a representative that he didn't remember the memo). In 2016, curator Stephanie Barron floated the idea of LACMA purchasing Simms' collection jointly with the GRI. But by then Simms was already completing plans with the Getty.

The GRI will open a show on Simms' collection this December. It travels to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Käthe Kollwitz, Outbreak (working proof), 1902/3. Getty Research Institute, gift and partial purchase from Dr. Richard A. Simms


Anonymous said…
I hope David Geffen does the same thing in 2019.

Michael Govan should consider doing what Graham Beale did in 1999.

For the sake of the community.
Anonymous said…

I wonder what Richard Simms thinks of what Michael Govan is doing to LACMA? Approval? Indifference? Resentment?

Given what Franklin Murphy and Richard Sherwood - other past trustees of LACMA and also friends of Simms - did for the museum and the way it's now being being dismantled by Govan, disgust should be everyone's main reaction.