The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles has elected four new trustees to its board, including L.A. painter Lari Pittman and entrepreneur and philanthropist Mary Klaus Martin, who served as a charter founder of the museum in the late 1970s.
Also named to the board was Adam Sender, a noted art collector and hedge fund manager, and Gabriel Brener, a financier with a specialty in Latino media ventures who has collected art for two decades. They bring the total number of active board members to 49, including six artist trustees. Pittman joins fellow artists Mark Bradford, Barbara Kruger, John Baldessari, Mark Grotjahn and Catherine Opie on the board.
"We are adding to the board because the more people at the table, the better the dinner party, the larger the conversation," MOCA Director Philippe Vergne said Tuesday. "We need to continue to grow our board and we want to go about it strategically, to bring people from different walks of life."
In Brener, Vergne said, the museum adds a trustee "with a deep footprint in the media industry and Latin America." Likewise, Sender, founder and CEO of Sender Co. & Partners, has a record of supporting experimental programming — including a widely covered installation by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn at a public housing project in the Bronx in 2013. "He has been a very sharp and informed collector," Vergne said. "He really wants to help when it comes to the collection."
The additions to the board are part of a turnaround for MOCA, which had been plagued by financial troubles following the global economic crisis of 2007-08 and the bumpy tenure of Manhattan gallerist Jeffrey Deitch as director, during which time all of the museum's artist trustees resigned. Vergne, who took over as director early in 2014, has since replenished the board's ranks, drawing back most of the artists who quit along with new ones. He has also helped to grow the endowment to $125 million from $100 million.
There are "never too many artists on the board," Vergne said. "And Lari, in all of my conversations with him, he is a very civic-minded artist. He understands the importance of Los Angeles and the importance of MOCA."
Martin, a longtime cultural presence in Los Angeles who served on the city's Cultural Heritage Commission under three mayors starting in 2000, is married to architect David C. Martin, the design principal at the Los Angeles firm AC Martin. Together, they founded Madworkshop, a grant-making foundation that supports design innovation.
As a founding member, Martin had been dismayed by MOCA's past troubles.
"They had their really awful time and many people thought they were pretty much down for the count," she said. But the revitalized board and the museum's new management team encouraged her to become involved once again. "The energy of the board, it was the same energy I had experienced in the early '80s," she said. "They have a fierce determination to make this succeed."
Vergne said this is a pattern. "We see people who used to be involved with MOCA coming back to our program," he said. "People love MOCA. They want MOCA to succeed."