Artist, former trustee react to possible LACMA/MOCA merger

MOCA Mobilization in 2008 spoke out against a possible merger of MOCA and LACMA (and members wore these armbands).

MOCA has been known as “the artist’s museum” since its founding in 1979 because of hands-on support from its creative community. So what do L.A. artists think about the news of a possible acquisition by LACMA, which would create a combined organization run by LACMA Director Michael Govan?

Here are some early reactions.


John Baldessari, a former MOCA trustee said: “LACMA is an encyclopedic museum, but they are weak when it comes to contemporary art, and this would make their holdings in contemporary art better than the Metropolitan [Museum of Art in New York] in some ways. So that’s pretty exciting.”

He added: “I have incredible confidence in Michael and what he is trying to do. If you look at his track record, everything he’s done before LACMA and here, it’s pretty umblemished.”

Cindy Bernard, the co-founder of MOCA Mobilization, a grass-roots organization launched in 2008 to help support the museum’s independence, said: “Let’s just say I have mixed feelings.

“This desire to keep MOCA an independent institution was something that was very important to us in 2008. But having seen what’s happened to MOCA since then and seeing the limited options out there, it’s harder to discount a LACMA acquisition. And certainly LACMA under Michael Govan has become a much more vibrant institution than it was before....My preference is still that the museum remains independent, but this is looking like a less and less likely prospect.”

Then she provided a statement from MOCA Mobilization:

MOCA Mobilization was formed during MOCA’s 2008 financial crisis in face of a potential merger with LACMA. In 2008 we wrote, “We are a vigilant public who care for the integrity and autonomy of MOCA. The Board of Trustees is the guardian of this great institution. It is the Board’s responsibility to insure the Museum’s financial health and preserve its programming and staff. We call upon the Trustees to maintain MOCA’s independence and to keep its collection intact and accessible to a wide and appreciative public.” Support was rallied and the merger was stopped.

Yet it is clear that since 2008, MOCA has not been independent – it’s been beholden to the terms of the agreement struck with Eli Broad and a weak Board of Trustees unable to raise sufficient funds to maintain the integrity of the Museum. The artists at the heart of MOCA were alienated and shut out of discussions regarding the future of the Museum and the curatorial staff depleted to two. MOCA is a diminished institution.

The Board of Trustees has failed a great Museum.
-- MOCA Mobilization


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