Exclusive: LACMA moves to take over MOCA

The main branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art. LACMA has made a formal bid to acquire both of MOCA's downtown museums.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has made a formal proposal to acquire the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which has been struggling with financial troubles and staff and board defections.

LACMA Director Michael Govan and the two co-chairs of his board made the offer in a Feb. 24 letter to the MOCA board co-chairs, laying out the rationale for an acquisition.

The letter said that LACMA would preserve MOCA’s two downtown locations and operate them under the MOCA name, according to people who have seen the letter but were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

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For its part, LACMA would agree to raise $100 million for the combined museums as a condition for completing the deal, these people said.


Govan declined to discuss any specific terms of the proposal but characterized it as “friendly and cooperative,” saying that it came in response to a request from MOCA board members.

“Yes, MOCA leadership initiated a request for a proposal. But, back and forth, people have been talking for years, so it’s a blurry line.”

(LACMA had proposed a merger in 2008, before the museum’s $30-million bailout by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.)

“Combining the two museums ... would create one of the largest and most significant art museums in the U.S,” Govan said.

“MOCA has a great brand, a great history, and its art collection is known and loved internationally,” Govan said. “It also helped breathe new life into downtown, and the Temporary Contemporary, now known as the Geffen, was extremely influential as an industrial conversion, establishing a great, open, rough and rugged frame for exhibitions of contemporary art through Frank Gehry’s design. All of those things are worth not only preserving but celebrating as assets of the community.”

MOCA leaders, who have also been involved in discussions with the University of Southern California about a possible partnership, were unavailable for immediate comment.


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