Eli Broad and the mysterious third museum site
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Culture Monster has been puzzling for more than a year over assertions by Eli Broad and his Broad Art Foundation that they are considering three different Westside sites for a museum Broad aims to build and lavishly endow for his art collection.
In November 2008, the news surfaced that Broad was in talks with the city of Beverly Hills about planting the museum and his 2,000 contemporary artworks at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard. A year later, Santa Monica, which may not have been on the original list of three, threw its hat in the ring.
Then, in an interview Tuesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s announcement of Jeffrey Deitch as its new director, Broad unexpectedly revealed the third site: a 10-acre parcel on the campus of West L.A. College in Culver City.
There’s a problem, though: West L.A. College President Mark Rocha says neither Broad nor any of his associates ever replied to a letter he wrote to them last November about the property.
After reading about the duel between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, Rocha said, he had sent a letter to the Broad Art Foundation, suggesting a get-together over coffee to see whether Broad might be interested in land owned by the college along Jefferson Boulevard, downhill from the campus.
“We have never heard back from anybody in the Broad Foundation,” Rocha said. In any case, he said, the land is probably going to be tied up for about two years by heavy equipment and a construction trailer. The college needs it as a staging area for a $400 million building project.
Meanwhile, the Santa Monica City Council had been poised to vote on Tuesday on the city manager’s recommendation that it approve a negotiated “agreement in principle” in which Broad gets a $1-a-year, 99-year lease on a 2.5-acre city-owned parcel next to the Civic Auditorium, $2.7 million in cash and site-preparation work, plus the promise of a speedy development review.
Santa Monica gets to be home to a contemporary art museum with at least 30,000 square feet of gallery space and an estimated construction cost of $40 million to $60 million, paid by Broad. The Broad Foundation would cover the expected $12 million-a-year operating expenses, via the earnings on a $200 million endowment.
The council meeting was postponed, however, after the death of Mayor Ken Genser on Saturday. It is tentatively rescheduled for Jan. 19.
If approved, the agreement would seemingly put Santa Monica ahead in its horse race with Beverly Hills, since Broad says Beverly Hills has yet to acquire the privately owned land for the museum and solve parking problems.
We asked him about a possible dark horse in the Broad Museum Stakes: interviewed by the Modern Art Notes blog, Deitch was quoted as saying that he’d asked Broad to consider building his museum on a vacant lot on Grand Avenue near MOCA, Disney Hall and the Colburn School of Music.
Could Deitch’s hopes sway the race? ‘I listen to everything Jeffrey says,’ Broad told us, but his noncommittal tone suggested that he might be saying it more out of respect for Deitch than enthusiasm for the idea.
After commenting on Deitch’s proposal and telling us about West L.A. College, Broad added that there’s yet another site under consideration — but he couldn’t say where.
Here’s the latest official word from the Broad Foundation, e-mailed today:
“There are more than three cities that have expressed an interest in the Broad Art Foundation headquarters/museum. Discussions are still ongoing, so we can’t say more at this point. But we’re keeping our options open and hope to make a decision on a location this spring.”
-- Mike Boehm