Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Another Los Angeles Art Collection - Goes Back East!

Carol Vogel New York Times

The Museum of Modern Art has received a gift of 174 contemporary works from a Los Angeles real estate developer, including prime examples of paintings, sculptures and drawings by artists like Philip Guston, Vija Celmins and Christopher Wilmarth.

Since the late 1970's, the developer, Edward R. Broida, has been buying what he considered the best works by a small group of contemporary artists who were overlooked by more fashion-conscious collectors.

"At the time everyone thought I was crazy," Mr. Broida said in a telephone interview, "but the worm has turned." Prime examples of paintings by Guston, for example, are now in such demand that they are fetching upwards of a million dollars at auction. The entire gift is worth about $50 million, said a museum official who requested anonymity because it is a policy not to disclose the financial value of gifts.

These works not only help fill many gaps in the Modern's contemporary art collection, but also enlarge its previous holdings of certain artists. For example, Mr. Broida is giving the museum 36 works by Guston, including 12 paintings, 16 drawings and 8 prints dating from 1938 to 1980. Ann Temkin, a curator in the Modern's department of painting and sculpture, said that while the museum already had 12 paintings by Guston, "the extraordinary quality of Mr. Broida's gift transforms the collection, making it the greatest holdings of Guston in the world."


Now, Mr. Broida said, he is determined to give as much of his collection to public institutions as possible. He is in discussions with the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

He said he had not considered giving any of his collection to a Los Angeles museum. Of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, he said, "Their art eyes are so different from mine, the collection didn't fit." Of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he said, "They are totally wrapped up with another large collection," referring to Eli Broad, the Los Angeles financier who is putting his vast collection of contemporary art in a new building that will be part of the museum.

So why are Los Angeles museums so incapable of developing relationships with Los Angeles collectors? For at least fifty years, major LA art collections have too often gone back east - or on the auction block - or both. Somehow our major art museums seem to repel LA collectors almost as much as the LA Times repels... LA readers. Now of course having a 'local' newspaper with zero sense of LA in its pages and no civic pride in LA doesn't help, but even the current sad state of the LA Times can't be blamed for this... completely.

1 comment:

Maureen K. said...

I recall a survey of several years ago that revealed people in LA are or have been less philantrophic than their counterparts in other cities.

Of course, we should all thank God for people like Norton Simon, J Paul Getty, the Ahmanson Foundation, etc, but I believe the depth of generosity among Angelenos overall is infamous for being rather shallow, especially from a per-capita standpoint. I theorize that some of this is due to local residents looking out over their city and thinking, peeeuuu, what an armpit! Why spend money and time on a town that's full of so many shabby, grafitti-plagued, poverty-stricken places!?!?