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MOCA says it's $60 million along to a $100-million endowment

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This post has been corrected. See below for details.

L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art announced Tuesday that it aims to build its endowment to $100 million and has commitments lifting the total above $60 million as the campaign begins.

The museum's investments, which include endowment funds, stood at $23 million early this year, according to information obtained by The Times.

Jeffrey Soros, president of MOCA's board, and longtime museum trustee Eugenio Lopez will chair the campaign, which has been dubbed "MOCA Independence."

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Initial pledges from board members have come in over the last two weeks, MOCA said.

"The financial support we have already raised demonstrates the commitment of the board to ensuring that MOCA remains a world-class independent contemporary art museum, and we call on others to join in this campaign," Soros said in a statement announcing the fund-raising bid. "We firmly believe that the best future for the museum is one that continues our history of making our preeminent collection available to the public and...presenting innovative, scholarly programming."

The aim, said Lopez, is to continue the museum's "exemplary exhibition program" and further build its prized post-World War II art holdings.

"With a healthy cash reserve and no debt, boosting our endowment gives us the financial security to fulfill our mission," he added.

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Last week, MOCA's board announced that it had decided to keep the museum independent rather than accept an offer to be absorbed into the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. LACMA's director, Michael Govan, said he'd presented the offer in response to a request from some MOCA trustees, and that it called for keeping MOCA's name and its two downtown buildings, while raising $100 million.

MOCA's endowment previously had peaked at $38.2 million in mid-2000 after a successful $25-million fund-raising campaign during the 1990s. But years of overspending ensued, with deficits averaging nearly $3 million a year from mid-2000 to mid-2008; after that the global financial meltdown plunged the endowment to about $5 million by early 2009, bringing on an emergency that led to a rescue by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.

Broad's pledge had included $15 million for exhibitions over five years through 2013, and an additional $15 million for the endowment, contingent on MOCA coming up with matching endowment funds.

MOCA's progress on matching Broad's endowment pledge had stalled at $6.25 million until now.

[For the record, March 26, 2013, 1:15 p.m.: a previous version of this post incorrectly attributed a quote about maintaining MOCA's history of `innovative, scholarly programming' to Eugenio Lopez instead of to Jeffrey Soros. It also said that MOCA's endowment stood at $23 milllion early this year, when the $23 million represented the total of MOCA's investments, some of which may be held outside the endowment.]

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