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L.A. Could Use Some Smarter Art Funding

<i> Etan Boritzer, a partner in the BGH art gallery in Santa Monica, has curated art exhibitions and has advised private and corporate collectors in art buying and selling</i> .<i> He is a former actor in films and television and a published author of children's books and art monographs</i>

The “Making the Case for Art” editorial (Opinion, Oct. 2) entirely misses the point of where the “case for art” needs to be made. The editorial points to the meager total private arts funding that was raised in Western states in the wake of recent NEA cuts and says “art organizations have no alternative but to work harder to make a connection to benefactors and the broader public. They must persuasively communicate art’s value to community life.”

As an arts professional with nearly 10 years of experience in the L.A. art scene, I--along with many of my colleagues--never seem to complain about a lack of funds. With the mega-bucks in entertainment here and, until recently, big bucks in real estate, along with the rest of L.A.'s huge economy (15th in the world), there is a consensus that there is plenty of private and corporate monies around for the arts.

At the recent MOCA Temporary Contemporary reopening, my business partner and I were astounded to hear from the trustee speakers about the early commitments of $13 million privately raised toward the $25-million current goal for MOCA support. Note here also that two major New York dealers and Sotheby’s have recently opened in Beverly Hills. The richest museum in the world, the Getty, is operating here. As a person who knows about art and money, I can tell you that, in this town, the money is definitely there for the arts--and art money is flowing.

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The problem that the editorial does not address is not the lack of private or public arts funding. The problem is simply where this money is going . An egregious example in the past few years is the Gas Co. building, whose developers used most of the more than $2 million of required “1% for art” monies to hire New York artist Frank Stella to design a mural and a Phoenix mural company to paint it (and in a place where it can barely be seen).

Most art professionals agree that the funky MOCA/TC is a much hipper and more “art-friendly” place to see art than the rather minor Izozaki main building, where the price of one of those imported Indian flagstones on the facade could support one artist for a month. Let’s not even get started with the Disney Hall boondoggle, the thus-far failure to complete a Civic Center hall for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

There are plenty of these types of examples in L.A. where arts funding--private, public and corporate--have gone primarily toward the benefactors’ search for self-aggrandizement rather than toward the misguided goals spelled out in the editorial.

If “an awareness of and sensitivity to the creative process” and encouraging “value that benefits the local community at large” are really what The Times, museum heads and other leaders of arts organizations are aiming for, then my colleagues and I would recommend financial support for artists and schools, as well as logistic support for locally organized art events such as this year’s L.A. International (recognizing artworks from abroad) or the recent DADA event focusing on Downtown galleries.

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More private and corporate funding should be directed toward collecting artworks of both emerging and established local artists, for instance, instead of toward projects where benefactors try to compete with other world art centers in the prestigious-buildings category.

Eventually, funding innovation--smarter funding, not more funding--will be the foundation that will bring long-sought international cultural recognition to L.A., as well as “persuasively communicat[ing] art’s value to community life.”


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