Modern Art Museum to Stay in La Jolla; May Open Satellite Galleries

San Diego County Arts Editor

After months of speculation about its possible relocation downtown, the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art has committed to remaining in La Jolla. The institution intends to expand on its present site and explore the development of as many as two satellite locations for storage and display of artworks--including the possible acquisition of the world-famous modern art collection of Count Giusseppe Panza of Italy.

At a meeting Tuesday afternoon, the museum’s board of directors reviewed and unanimously approved a long-range plan outlining the museum’s goals and objectives for the next five years. According to board spokesman Christopher Calkins, the plan calls for the expansion of the museum’s gallery space--including the addition of a sculpture garden--by 20,000 square feet, and its storage space by 10,000 square feet by 1990. A cafe would be added by 1986. The museum has a first-rate permanent collection of American Minimal and Pop art, but has been squeezed for space to store and display the works.

Satellite facilities would be developed in downtown San Diego, and possibly in North County, though Calkins would not comment more specifically on possible sites. Museum director Hugh Davies has met with renowned architect Robert Venturi in Philadelphia to discuss the on-site museum expansions, and Venturi plans to visit the museum this year.

Calkins acknowledged that the museum is actively pursuing the acquisition of part of the art holdings of Count Panza, whose collection consists of 550 pieces of prime American Modernism, valued at $20 million. Davies said he would visit Panza in Europe this month, “and obviously I’ll look at his collection with a very careful eye. But to my mind it includes the best collection of Minimal sculpture to be found anywhere.”


Panza has already sold a major part of his holdings--80 pieces--to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and he wishes to loan and then sell the rest of the collection, preferably to a Southern California museum, because high taxes are preventing him from bringing his collection out of storage in Switzerland and into Italy. Recently, Panza and several La Jolla museum officials toured San Diego’s port area, inspecting warehouse space at the 10th Street terminal, the Van Camp cannery and the B Street Pier.

“We’ll need at least 80,000 square feet to house a significant portion of (Panza’s) collection,” Calkins said. “So we’re directing our attention to warehouse space that could be redeveloped, rather than designing a new structure.”

In January, news leaked that the museum was considering relocating to a new, larger bayside site downtown, at the 5.3-acre G Street Mole. La Jollans quickly protested the possible move, arguing that when the museum site was established by the estate of Ellen Browning Scripps in 1941, it was stipulated that the site be permanently occupied by an art center.

“The key thing is that, while we recognize the need for more space, we’re going to focus on the display, preservation and acquisition of art,” Calkins said. “Even when the G Street Mole story leaked, we were in the process of contemplating a whole series of options. The options reflected in this final plan were there from the beginning.”


The five-year plan approved Tuesday also calls for the museum to increase its endowment fund--currently about $3 million--to between $5.5 million and $6 million by 1990. That amount could generate $500,000 or more in additional revenue (in 1985 dollars). The plan also calls for raising about $3 million to pay for the expansion and remodeling of the La Jolla museum, and to rely primarily on private funding.

In addition, the plan affirms the museum’s commitment to expose the works of California artists, educational programs, and the related disciplines of the graphic arts, urban planning, architecture and industrial design. An increased emphasis will be given to the use of the museum’s Sherwood Auditorium for display and performance of contemporary art, as a revenue source, and as a community center.