Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa makes a plea to MOCA


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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, right, weighed in publicly today on the situation at the Museum of Contemporary Art. His letter to board co-chairmen Tom Unterman and David Johnson asks that the board take time to thoroughly review its options and set aside 30 days to allow the public an opportunity to provide input before a decision is made.

MOCA is considering at least two proposals to help bail out the financially troubled downtown museum. Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has offered $15 million if the museum will match those funds, plus an additional $15 million over five years for programming. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has offered to merge with MOCA, sharing resources and facilities.


The board is scheduled to meet this morning.

Text of the mayor’s letter follows after the jump.

-- Lisa Fung

December 18, 2008

David Johnson
Tom Unterman
MOCA Board of Trustees
250 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mr. Johnson and Mr. Unterman:

I write to you and the members of the Board of Trustees at what we all agree is a
critical moment in MOCA’s history and for its future. I make the following
requests to keep faith with the civic priorities that helped launch the museum in
the heart of the city more than two decades ago:

1. No determination should be made regarding the long term structure
and financial wherewithal of the museum until the board has had an
opportunity to thoroughly review and vet proposals in writing.

2. Trustees should take 30 days to conduct a public review of the
proposals before them, allowing for input from the community and all
interested stakeholders.

This critical public review could be conducted by or in conjunction with a panel of
appointed contemporary arts experts. While MOCA’s lease agreement provides
for the appointment of such a panel, charged with ensuring that MOCA maintains
its status as “a non-profit, contemporary art museum of ‘world class’ stature’” with
a concern for the general public, after notice of potential breach, I believe that the
current crisis demands the convening of a panel now. This convening would
bolster the public’s confidence in MOCA after this crisis is resolved. Therefore, I
intend to move forward shortly to convene such a panel, and I request your

I remain committed to MOCA’s continuing presence in downtown Los Angeles,
and believe it is in the best interest of Angelenos for the Museum of
Contemporary Art to have a sustainable, vibrant future. However, MOCA is in a

Mr. David Johnson
Mr. Tom Unterman
December 16, 2008
Page 2

serious financial and institutional crisis and in significant need of management
reorganization. Any plan to preserve the museum’s long term financial health
must also maintain MOCA’s independence and require structural reform and
strict financial accountability measures. The strategic choices you make for
MOCA’s future should also have broad and deep stakeholder support, and
ensure that the Board maintains its stewardship and authority over the financial
and operational management of the museum.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of these suggestions as you strive to
address this critical issue.

Very truly yours,