Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Seismic Shift in the Landscape in Los Angeles

When Chelsea dealer Oliver Kamm (a favorite neighbor of ours and one of the very sweetest people you'll meet in the art world) announced he was changing his operations from a public gallery to private dealing, he was quoted on artnet.com :
"I’m happy," he said, noting that his last two shows had both been positively reviewed in the New York Times, resulting in no (as in zero) sales. "We are truly living in a post-critical era," he said.
I asked a high-profile art critic about that a while later at a party. I had the tables turned on me when asked what I thought Oliver meant by that. "Well," I explained, "I feel it means that whether or not an artist receives rave reviews is no longer anywhere near as important to their eventual success (with a road to inclusion in museums being the ultimate prize) as whether their work is popular among the right collectors." In other words, the power had shifted from critics to collectors. The art critic and I never resolved whether that was true at the party, but...

Further evidence of that shift in power, IMO, is the announcement by Los Angeles-based super-collector and philanthropist Eli Broad (rhymes with "road" [seen right]) that, despite having said as recently as a year ago he would give most of his collection away to museums, he had changed his mind and would instead maintain private control of his entire collection via a new lending foundation (i.e., he would lend his collection out to museums for exhibitions). Calling his decision nothing less than a new "paradigm for the way museums in general collect art" (as reported in
The New York Times), Broad explained:

“I think it’s a new model that makes sense for other collections,” he said. “If it was up to me, I believe that museums ought to own works jointly.” Mr. Broad encouraged that practice last year with his purchase of a work by the artist Chris Burden, which he then gave jointly to the county museum and another Los Angeles institution, the Museum of Contemporary Art, where he was a founding trustee.

His decision not to donate his holdings evolved over the last year, Mr. Broad said, as his collection grew, and it became clear that no museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art included, would commit to placing a large percentage of the works on permanent exhibit.
That all seems rather practical. That is until you know that
The decision is a striking reversal by Mr. Broad, who as recently as a year ago said that he planned to give most of his holdings to one or several museums.

Long assumed to be at the top of the list of potential recipients was the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which next month is to open the $56 million Broad Contemporary Art Museum, a building designed by Renzo Piano and financed by Mr. Broad, as the centerpiece of its redesigned campus on Wilshire Boulevard.

Coming on the eve of the opening, the decision is a potential embarrassment for the Los Angeles museum. It was widely criticized in 2001 for mounting a major exhibition of works from Mr. Broad’s collection without having secured a promised gift of the works, an act that is prohibited at many prominent art institutions because it can increase the market value of the collection.
Even if you agree with Mr. Broad's vision, it's tough to accept that his timing wasn't meant to send shivers down the spines of museum directors.

So what's really happening here? What is this seismic shift? Well, the old paradigm held that museums had to seriously court collectors in hopes of securing their holdings one day. Even though this demanded a degree of obsequiousness on the part of the institution, the potential prize was considered well worth it. The better the museum's collection became, the more power they attained to attract even better collections, etc. etc. Because of the pressure to get certain collections, some museums have gone as far as to...as Tyler Green so wonderfully puts it..."fluff" powerful collectors (i.e., flatter them with an exhibition of their collection without a promised gift). As Tyler explains
here, this is an ethical issue:
Couldn't be much simpler, says Geoff Edgers in the Boston Globe: MFA Boston gives collector show of collection. Collector rides the wave and sells collection. Christie's admits that exhibit contributes to interest in work shown. (Climax = sale.) MFA Boston's museo-peers say it committed a major ethical transgression.
Ah, but...you might say, if Broad's model becomes the norm, then museums won't need to fluff collectors anymore. That would be true if Broad were under any obligation to lend his collection to any institution asking. But, of course, he's not:

Mr. Broad took pains to make clear that [LACMA] would be “the favored institution” when it came to loans from the Broad Art Foundation. “If it weren’t going to be favored, I wouldn’t have given it $50 million to build the building,” he said.
The director of LACMA, Michael Govan, has said Mr. Broad did not profit from LACMA's 2001 exhibit of works from the Broad collection. (I'm assuming he means because Broad hasn't sold the work, not because the exhibition didn't add to the importance of the works' provenance.) But taking Mr. Broad out of the equation and simply looking at the model, it's not hard to see where a museum might feel just as pressured to fluff a lending collector as one who might donate the work eventually.

I'll admit there's a good deal to sort out in all this. The part of Broad's argument that I feel is rather compelling is this:

“We don’t want it to end up in storage, in either our basement or somebody else’s basement,” Mr. Broad said. “So I, as the collector, am saying, ‘If you’re not willing to commit to show it, why don’t we just make it available to you when you want it, as opposed to giving it to you, and then our being unhappy that it’s only up 10 percent or 20 percent of the time or not being shown at all?’”
Still, as Edward Wyatt (who wrote the Times piece) noted:

Of course Mr. Broad also enjoys tax advantages by keeping much of his artworks in a tax-exempt foundation that lends the work out to museums.
Then again, perhaps this model would backfire on other collectors (I can't see it backfiring on Broad, his collection is so deep and important he really can dictate any terms he wants). Perhaps some collectors with good, but not extraordinary, collections, though, would receive a little less attention from museums if they tried the same thing, leaving them with the less glamorous dilemma of selling off their collection eventually or struggling to make their own museum of it. The number of mediocre museums that might result in isn't any more enticing a scenario than an increase in fluff shows.

What does this mean for artists? Well, essentially it means that the ultimate prize may no longer be getting your work into a museum, but rather into a high-profile collection (i.e., so that it will be exhibited more frequently). The problem with that scenario, as I see it, is that whereas there's public pressure on museums not to deaccession work, there's no such pressure on private collectors. Therefore, there's more risk that one's work will end-up, not being preserved for posterity, but rather dumped at auction when the tides of fashion shift. Museums take a very long view of their holdings. It's hard to say what the long view for a lending foundation might be.

Labels: art museums, Collecting


Blogger Tyler said...

I'm not done thinking about this... but my initial reaction is to remember this is Eli Broad we're talking about and that there aren't too many Eli Broads out there. So maybe we shouldn't read too much into it. (Frederick Weisman ultimately did sort of the same thing, no?) Not sure yet though.

1/08/2008 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Also worth remembering: This is one collector making one decision. Collectors who choose to share their art collections with the public almost always do so through gifts to museums. Donald Fisher's museum hasn't happened yet, and I'm not convinced it will (plug: more on this on MAN this week, ahem). Today's news is the exception, not SOP.

1/08/2008 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

For me it's the confluence of other factors with this decision making it feel different somehow. It's not only the decision, but the timing. How is Govan expected to respond?

Very interesting about that is the fact that although the online version of the NYTimes story now has quotes by Govan, the print version has:

Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Govan, who became the county museum's director after being heavily recruited by Mr. Broad, declined comment on Monday.

It looks like he thought twice about how that looked by late Monday:

Michael Govan, the director of Lacma, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday afternoon. In a telephone interview late Monday night, he said that he viewed Mr. Broad's decision as a positive development because it meant that none of the art works would be sold, an act that would limit access to them by Lacma and other museums.

Of course it's possible that both a spokeswoman said he declined comment and he didn't return calls, but the revision seems to imply he simply hadn't gotten around to returning the call, whereas the print version suggests he didn't want to respond.

Long story short, this is incredible to me:

Asked if he viewed Mr. Broad's decision as demonstrating a lack of confidence in him or in the museum, Mr. Govan said: "Quite the reverse. Since day one he's privately and publicly given me a lot of support." He noted that even though Mr. Broad does not plan to give his works to the museum, he did not profit from Lacma's 2001 exhibit of works from the Broad collection.

"And from the public perspective, I don't think most people care when they walk in the door whether the museum owns the works or not, as long as they don't lose them" to private sales, Mr. Govan said. "He's got 2,000 works, so there is plenty to go around."

1/08/2008 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ultimately the long term costs of maintaining a collection will have to be a factor in this. Even established museums struggle with this. The Barnes may be a good example.

1/08/2008 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Sunil said...

On a positive note, the good art (now defining that is a whole other thing) will still live on and will pass from the collectors through either the process of lending their collections to museums or through auctions onto museums who procure them with a longer view and hold them for the future.

Cynically, we live in a 'what did you do for me lately' era where NOW is what counts more than anything else. This new trend that Eli is pioneering will surely have a lot of other collectors vying to do the same - not bequeathing their holdings, but 'loaning' them and occasionally selling them off when the winds are not blowing in the right direction.

The days of ‘critic rules!’ has gone… Good post.

1/08/2008 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

According to Forbes, Broad is worth ~$7 billion. Cost of upkeep/etc. is not a factor.

1/08/2008 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The days of ‘critic rules!’ has gone

I'm not so sure that's something to celebrate, to be quite honest.

If "money rules" then certain types of art might never make it into museums.

1/08/2008 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, Edward...

i.e., educated people who "know" no longer determine what art is important, instead value is determined by people who have enough cash.

I find it terrifying.

1/08/2008 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger joy garnett said...

This does seem to emphasize what we know: that we are living in a "robber-barons on steroids" era...

1/08/2008 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

If "money rules" then certain types of art might never make it into museums.

Certain types of art are already not making it into the museums.

Therefore, there's more risk that one's work will end-up, not being preserved for posterity, but rather dumped at auction when the tides of fashion shift.

Collectors should dump fashionable contemporary work. When museums enshrine fashions for the ages, we end up with bizarre priorities in the art market, put forth by curators who have no investment in the outcome except their theories.

1/08/2008 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Certain types of art are already not making it into the museums.


1/08/2008 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Damon said...

The issue that Broad is responding to in an indirect way (but is very much at the heart of the matter) is a problem of quantity. To an unprecedented degree, there is far too much art and far too many collectors right now and they are all struggling for recognition. Even for the big names, artists or collectors, the fight to preserve their name for posterity is far from over.

Broad says “We don’t want it to end up in storage, in either our basement or somebody else’s basement.” A common lament for collectors of all stripes. Collections make for a very bad monument. They get broken up, often ending up as footnotes in a provenance list at auction. And museums are less afraid of de-accessioning now – perhaps rightly with mind-boggling values and correlated insurance cost and as collectors force on them large holdings wholesale, weather they want the crappy second-tier stuff with the top-notch or not.

This is foremost an attempt to preserve one collector’s tribute to himself, an alternate strategy from building a private museum (now a dime a dozen and largely impractical in the long run).

There are only so many museums and only so much wall space but we are in an era of art hyper-production and hyper-consumption. So very much of what is bought and sold now will be worthless soon enough. History has a very narrow focus and a cold tendency to reevaluate downwards. Even the most determined collector or artist is subject to the whims of dispassionate and critical historical reevaluation.

IMO museums have made the problem much worse by becoming major players/enablers in contemporary art. There’s a fine line that is difficult to defend here because it is primarily about selecting a number, but I believe they should not under any circumstances acquire work (by purchase or donation) less than 5 years old, but 25 is more realistic. Exhibit the work infrequently if you absolutely must, but don’t acquire it. Otherwise museums just become part of the commercial machine, complicit in an echo chamber of parrots permantnetly removing from the cultural game the benefit of truly objective and mature perspective. Of course, given the abysmal salaries of most museum curators it’s no wonder that so many are 30 years old, lacking in perspective themselves and therefore leading us down this path in an effort to be hip and crowd as many tourist through the door as possible. We get the art and the museums we deserve.

Museums no longer offer a solid guarantee of historical significance. Like collectors, they too are struggling to rationalize, differentiate and defend their relevance and positions while clamoring for a limited audience. The Whitney comes immediately to mind. Meanwhile the New Museum has done itself a disservice by becoming (yet another) a collecting institution and betraying a core founding principal.

Apparently even Broad recognizes that being at the top of the museum game is not enough anymore, he has to up the ante and try to devise a new method for perpetuating his vision of contemporary art. In pandering to the game museums have undermined themselves. This is the beginning of the end of the current collecting contemporary art museum model. It is unsupportable physically in terms of space, financially in terms of care and intellectually in terms of audience interest. Broad’s foundation is an attempt to place himself permanently above the museum fray, but he’s placing himself at the top of a tower of cards.

1/08/2008 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

fabulous comment Damon!

IMO museums have made the problem much worse by becoming major players/enablers in contemporary art.

I think part of that is the feeding frenzy. The notion that if they don't jump in and speculate to some degree, they'll not be able to afford the important work down the road. On the other hand, I don't mind that institutions with deep pockets support emerging artists either. Studios and materials are not getting any cheaper, and even if history reevaluate downwards, there's merit and value in supporting the work of one's time, IMHO.

1/08/2008 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody who thinks that Broad's work will be more on view by his controlling it through a foundation is delusional [i.e. Broad himself is delusional]. Cream will rise to the top, other silt will sink to the bottom and reside in the basement. Frankly there's only so much wall space in institutions and to think that this action will increase his works visibility is simply wrong. Call it as it is -- an ego play. The suckers are LACMA and Govan in particular.

1/08/2008 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contemporary art is increasing global - witness Rome, China, Russia - so why should Broad limit access to his works to just L.A.? His decision is fine by me.

1/08/2008 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anybody who thinks that Broad's work will be more on view by his controlling it through a foundation is delusional [i.e. Broad himself is delusional]. Cream will rise to the top, other silt will sink to the bottom and reside in the basement.

There is a hell of a lot of cream in Broad's collection. And he does lend it out, constantly, so I'm not sure why you think this will change things on that front.

1/08/2008 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...


Stop giving taxpayer dollars to contemporary art institutions. Fashion takes superficially interesting traits, celebrates them for a while, and discards them once they stop being interesting. If museums didn't have the ability to prolong the date of expiration, the collectors wouldn't be fooling with them. Damon beat me to a bunch of points that I was about to make, but yes, you end up with the market behaving as strangely as it does because the museums interfere with the destruction cycle that gets rid of dated fashions. The market is always going to make fashion-driven choices, but the contemporary museums exaggerate the effects of those choices, and we exaggerate the power of the contemporary museums by funding them as if they were some kind of public good.

1/08/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

we exaggerate the power of the contemporary museums by funding them as if they were some kind of public good

No more so than we do by funding contemporary theater or music or writing or any of the other arts.

1/08/2008 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

No more so than we do by funding contemporary theater or music or writing or any of the other arts.

We shouldn't do that either, but no type of institution in the worlds of writing or music (I know absolutely nothing about contemporary theater) has the effect that museums have on art. It's very hard to separate the effect of a museum show on an artist's prices from any other kind of corporatism. Music and writing disseminate by a publishing mechanism - a primarily private one - whereas art has to get seen in someone's building.

1/08/2008 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous bnon said...

Is this the endgame--a billionaire wresting authority from the museum--of the long assault of money on serious critical judgment in the art world (see Dave Hickey)? Or is something happier happening in the flush chaos of buying and selling? I feel a little like it's the latter--artists are doing more big, crazy, expensive projects than was conceivable 20 years ago. A Spiral Jetty for every big city! A hundred Happenings a second! A thousand naked people at every art fair! No Daddy Clement Greenbergs telling us what to do! This is bad?

1/08/2008 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

We shouldn't do that either

Governments shouldn't support contemporary art making?

I wholeheartedly disagree.

I think, at the very least, they should support the institutions that distribute/exhibit contemporary art. I'm not so sure they should support individual artists, but...

anyway...a debate for another thread perhaps?

1/08/2008 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LACMA would be better off without Broad's mediocre party-line collection. As the exhibition a few years ago proved, it is dull as dishwater including many many boring works of art. The man has no taste or refinement and buys with his ears.
Govan should be taken to task for his sucking-up job. He has given county property to a private museum. It is truly a scandal.

1/08/2008 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger joy garnett said...

It's very hard to separate the effect of a museum show on an artist's prices from any other kind of corporatism. Music and writing disseminate by a publishing mechanism - a primarily private one - whereas art has to get seen in someone's building.

you have got to be kidding. franklin, do you seriously think that the business of music and publishing is any less corporate than the art biz? If anything they more highly standardized in their corporate models, which are now falling apart due to digital technologies and the whole wrench they (dt) throw into the ol' top-down notion of distribution... but this is old news.

1/08/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

LACMA would be better off without Broad's mediocre party-line collection. As the exhibition a few years ago proved, it is dull as dishwater including many many boring works of art. The man has no taste or refinement and buys with his ears.

All the rest of this aside, the Broad collection is staggering. Literally, I staggered out of the foundation in Santa Monica, thinking how amazing it was that all this great work was under one roof. Let's give credit where it's due. The Broads have amassed a treasure trove.

1/08/2008 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

No Daddy Clement Greenbergs telling us what to do!

This is funny, because I was just chatting with some fellow artists that one of the reasons that art and art writing are generally so bad is because its perpetrators have an Oedipal problem with Greenberg.

anyway...a debate for another thread perhaps?

Yeah, no problem. I really ought to read Tyler Cowen's book on this anyway.

Joy, corporate and corporatist are not the same thing. Corporatism is what you get when the government funds the activities of corporations (Halliburton) or changes the law to protect failing business models (the RIAA). What goes on in the art world looks a lot like the former, and a little bit of it - this whole notion of "joint giving" - looks a bit like the latter.

1/08/2008 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger joy garnett said...

bnon said:
Is this the endgame--a billionaire wresting authority from the museum--of the long assault of money on serious critical judgment in the art world

Here's a question: what makes this so different from 19th and early 20th arbiters of taste? the powerful collectors and dealers (and collector/dealers) of previous eras? (cf: Kahnweiler, etc.)

1/08/2008 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger joy garnett said...

that would be "19th and early 20th century", and it's meant to be an academic question.

1/08/2008 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous bnon said...


I don't know the difference between then and now, of course. But we can probably agree that the authority of the museum, art critics,the government, sexual mores, etc., etc., were relatively intact. Now only money decides the value of art. I don't know that I really believe this, but that's the rhetoric I've heard.


1/08/2008 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/08/2008 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

If "money rules" then…

I don’t understand what the fuss is, money has always ruled. In modern history, patronage by Popes, Kings, Industrialists, in short the rich, have always determined what art has been collected, supported and preserved. Now is no different.

How this processes of collection etc, occurs today is probably different because it must contend with a much larger number of artists and artworks. The artworld seems like it needs to find a new organizational model for itself. It appears that this is what Mr. Broad is trying to do, good on him.

To the earlier comment "The days of ‘critic rules!’ has gone" Maybe, maybe not.
Mr. Broad started his collection in the late seventies, I suspect that he was paying attention to the critical discourse at the time.

I would question, if what may be occurring now is more generational than anything else. We are in a hot market period, which has matured stylistically for thirty years, collectors are following the herd and buying what other collectors are buying.

When the money dries up in the next year or two, the critical cycle will reassert itself again, young artists will rattle the cages of their elders and the cycle will start all over again, without Mr. Broad but with some new young collector.

1/08/2008 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Regarding earlier centuries, it looks like we're going back to the model of Henry Clay Frick and Pierpont Morgan and Isabella Stewart Gardner. Gardner had Bernard Berenson traipsing around Europe looking for art for her collection. Now the Rubells have a guy named Mark Coetzee traipsing around Europe doing the same thing. Ce plus ca change and all that.

1/08/2008 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger highlowbetween said...

Damon is dead on and many others too. Plus I think this shows the general trend towards private equity as the solution for everything. Private equity does our thinking and protecting for us. You know the market "is smart" non-sense.

I'm wondering if we might not have UBS/Guggenheim Museum in our near future. Like sports arenas - seems like good marketing ;)

The new asset game is in full force for the high net wealth crowd.

1/08/2008 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly Franklin.

1/08/2008 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Regarding earlier centuries, it looks like we're going back to the model of Henry Clay Frick and Pierpont Morgan...

It's always been that. What is similar is the sharply unequal distribution of wealth which occurred early in the last century and today.

1/08/2008 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Broad will do whatever he wants because he is a kingpin. Other small fry collectors will have to decide what they want to do regardless of what there god, Broad, does because they are not in the same league. They will sell it before they croak, leave their art to their children or friends who will sell or keep it, or donate it to a museum. Either way a majority of art works made during any decade will disappear into storage containers that are owned by museums or private collectors. The result is the same; art made for the people will be hidden away forever. There will never be enough display space in the world. There will never be enough afforable housing either. Which is more important?

The 'art world is controlled by money' discussion will never go beyond cliché statements. Chicken or egg discussions are always fruitless. This is a false dichotomy: money always controlled the art making process or there was a wonderful utopian period where money had no impact on art making. The Neanderthals enjoyed the art making process free from the abstraction of money because it didn't really exist back then. If you want to see art free from the machinations of commerce go visit Lascaux. Magic was replaced by money but they are equally irrational.


1/08/2008 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

The difference between 19th and early 20th century art contexts is that there was an emergence of philosophical art criticism in postwar America. Before that, for the most part you were still on the Grand Tour, whether it was Egypt or Paris.

The collections given to the Met were built by such people as Roger Fry and Mary Cassatt, I suspect that mentoring art consultants of such quality still remain in the bones of any good collection.

Whatever advice or purchases were made behind the scenes were given from within a larger art context. Roger Fry and Mary Cassat understood the achieved publicity of art's condition. Writing about art, talking about art, in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and in the London Times, mattered to them.

The emergence of philosophical art criticism in postwar America was resonant with what was occurring in artistic practice (yes, I use that word - it replaces "style" and has for a long time). Art history accelerated so that every week new stakes appeared only a block away from each other, and this had everything to do with philosophical questions about art's conditions.

The impact of the eighties was huge, a divide occurred in the years of Greenberg's decline, with the rise of Julian Schnabel, and some really strong arts writing from within the academy.

I still believe in the art museum, it's the place where scholarship and writing that takes some risk can occur, and this needs to continue. The academy and the public meet each other well in the spaces of the art museum/contemporary arts center.

Art critics are important, but they are not liked despite their value, nor are they paid for what they do, and so serious arts writing has always been a dying breed. But it exists, and there is an audience desiring and capable of the effort.

1/08/2008 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

800 Warhols

Did you guys see this? 800 Warhols in storage that nobody sees unless this guy sells one, after he himself has raised the prices so much.

I'd take Eli Broad's way any time.

1/08/2008 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Practice =?= style, I don't think so.

Real artists make work, they don't need to 'practice'

1/08/2008 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous greg.org said...

uh, actually it's the Deutschebank Guggenheim. UBS has Art Basel.

Tyler's right about conservation and maintenance/mgmt cost not being an issue for a comfortable billionaire like Broad, but it's a non-trivial point for collectors just one tier or more down the scale.

Unless they're heavily endowed, these foundations will be forced to make collect or conserve decisions with their money from very early on. The director of a major EU collection [art rich, cash not-so-rich] once told me how surprised he was at the % of their budget that went to upkeep.

One of the first things Dominique deMenil said to me [thunk, oh, did I just drop something?] when I met her, was how she was really trying to build up the endowment at the Menil Collection. And I was thinking, "Huh? Just write the check." But she wanted me, a kid barely out of college to write the check, too.

If these foundations really do emerge as artbanks of a sort, it'll be worth noting what their public stance is on conservation, lending, and deaccessioning. A private foundation could be just as capable of playing museums for market value as a private collector, after all.

1/08/2008 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No sympathy for the museum curators from me. All they appear to do now is follow the market, buying and showing what has already been validated by sales from Chelsea exhibitions. Wasn't there once a time when museums discovered and supported artists?

By the way, how is it that Oliver Kamm is doing so badly he needs to close, yet neighbor ATM is doing so well it can expand? What are the differences between the two galleries?

1/08/2008 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a rather historic day. Eli Broad backs out of his informal museum commitment on the same day the stock of the company he founded, KB Home, hits a 5-year-low, on the same day that Hillary Clinton's momentum to the White House may in fact end (thank god). It is a day that will live in infamy.

1/08/2008 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Double J said...

Well, Broad has been very generous to us up the coast in Portland OR.

Here's an example: http://www.portlandart.net/archives/2007/10/camouflage_at_p.html... 3 of those works are from Broad (not the Agnes Martin's though)

I'm happy that loans from his foundation have made the rounds in Portland, where we have a couple of major collectors but nobody even at half of Broad's depth and stature.

It helps places like Portland who are just now developing a collecting scene (missing out on the 80's where Broad has his depth.)

1/08/2008 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

european collectors of broad's stature sometimes build their own small museums, through which they rotate their acquisitions, publish catalogs, etc. i'm thinking of the goetz collection in munich, which is similar to broad's collection in its breadth, but there are others. broad and the rubells are doing something similar here. each have, as edward suggests, amassed treasure troves of some of the top examples of many contemporary artists's production. we need more, more, more of this kind of thing in the US, not less. why let corporate institutions with their sometimes arcane motivations and professional, academic in-fighting decide upon what's what. at least broad has stirred the shit a little. in the long term, this seems good for artists, if more collectors are able to follow his example of assembling a collection which reflects a personal vision which, for better or worse, is indicative of its time.

1/08/2008 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous EL-A said...

If Broad opens his private collection in Santa Monica to the public, LA's artworld will benefit from this tremendously.

I'd like to state that Miami has several private collections, most of which are remarkable. I can only wish for this to happen in Los Angeles, where I reside.

In Miami's Design District, its my understanding that there are two private art museums being built, one for Craig Robin's collection, the other for Rosa de la Cruz's collection. When these open in 2008 or 2009, Miami will have four major private collections open to the public, (counting the Margulies Warehouse and the Rubell Family Collection). Everyone who goes to Art Basel Miami Beach and the satellite fairs in December knows that seeing these private collections is always one of the highlights of the Miami experience. One gets the sense that some serious consideration has taken place in forming these collections, an absolute weeding out has occurred after considered buying not merely from Miami fairs but from fairs and galleries and studios worldwide, and that in some manner of form, these collections are no different than the incredible and art historically significant Barnes Collection that is to be moved into Philadelphia at some time in the future. We may just be seeing the 21st century Barnes Collections in formation. It is these collections going public in Miami that for me makes Miami a dynamic art scene. So in a sense these Miami private collection exhibitions serve as annual highlight shows, since they are comprised of works collected over the past year, and sometimes of works collected over a lifetime but focused upon a particular notion or idea.

Just imagine if there were just one or two major collectors with large-scale exhibition spaces in all of the large and small art cities in the United States. It would not only challenge, but utterly change the current artworld landscape, since these collectors move much more quickly than places like MOMA, or even most MOCA's for than matter.

I'd love to see a five or so major private collections of contemporary break out in Los Angeles, with publishing programs, etc. It would be fabulous.

I remember hearing Okwei Enwezor speak in LA a while ago, stating that in Germany, there were the equivalent of thirty Whitney Biennials a year in that country. So I view the Miami collections as a form of annual exhibition of specific tastes, of real major collectors, who have real and tremendous power in the real artworld today.

Now, as for breaking promises, several years ago the Getty Museum said it was going to build a separate pavillion for world-class traveling exhibitions, of the kind that one can see in Washington D.C. or Philadelphia or NYC or Europe, and they were also going to build a major art bookstore on their grounds. They did neither, and they have seven billion dollars, and they barely support contemporary art in LA yet are the by far richest art institution in California. A Getty MOCA or Getty MOMA or both would make things really interesting in LA and in this country, especially if they were competing with private art collections in LA for audiences and respect from the international contemporary art communities. A Getty MOCA and MOMA would be in position to compete with private collectors, and so there could be not maybe a shift, but a shared authority between the two types of institutions, as versus it being as it is presently.

1/08/2008 07:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tragedy here is that LACMA gave county property to Broad to build a museum in his name. Even though most of the seed money was donated by Broad, Govan should have considered the long term implications of having a building on the LACMA campus named The Broad Contemporary Art Museum. It was clearly a strategic move by Broad to control yet another institution until he grows bored with it, or until someone stands up to his ego and then he moves on, as he did with MOCA. Shocking that he would drop this news shortly before BCAM opens next month, but anyone who knows Broads' history with dangling his collection like a carrot cannot be at all surprised. The collection is vast, however, it is directed by a curator who has no vision, or any real experience other than working for Broad and it is paid for by a man who buys art that is already sanctioned by the art community. Broad is not a trend setter. He buys established artists because he does not take risks. There are many historic works in the collection, but dig deep, there is a lot of work that has sunk to the bottom, never to be seen again. Most of the work is in storage and will remain so, as there is no way to rotate a collection that large without eventually boring the public to tears. Ask around as to how many museums of a smaller scale have requested art work for loan and have been denied by the Broad Foundation, simply because they are not significant enough. You might be surprised. A lending institution, or an ego driven tax shelter? Stop getting all caught up in the glamour of the size of the collection and look closely at the facts. Broads heart is not in the right place.

1/09/2008 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger Mat said...

This is the best thing to ever happen. Seriously, do you know how many scumbag collectors will get caught holding the bag?
-Mat Gleason

1/09/2008 02:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry but I don't see Broad's actions as a great move forward in the battle to make more good art visible to the public. The origin of the public museums runs parallel to the invention of the guillotine.

The first museum in France was filled with art that had been taken by the freshly beheaded aristocracy. So history runs full circle. The aristocracy has its revenge.

I can't believe that anyone here would actually believe that keeping artworks in the hands of one really rich individual will bring about radical change or help fill the world with more art.

Even though some collectors keep really good care of the art they own it isn't always the case and there is absolutely no oversight.

The art in private hands is much more vulnerable to contingency, how responsible will the people be who inherit it, how dedicated will the sole owner of the art be if he/she hits hard financial times? With auction results being kept private most of the time there is no public knowledge about who owns what and where it is being kept exactly.

The museum might keep too much in storage in perpetuity but at least we know where the art is. Yes there have been some really poor choices in terms of work that has been deaccessioned but you will not see a museum dump art in the same way a private collector will when the market is just right for such action.

1/09/2008 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

I agree that museums should own work jointly. The "second tier" artworks in storage at a major museum would be the centerpiece of almost any other museum.

1/09/2008 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did Broad bother to imply at all that he would be giving his collection to LACMA, or spread it around to other institutions and then pull it back? He did not just WAKE UP one morning and change his mind. It was certainly a long term plan.

His legacy will reflect his choices, good and bad. His model for lending his collection is full of holes because he is in control of who gets to exhibition his works. Why doesn't he open his art foundation to the public? Instead, it is an elitist institution that controls admission by their whim. Why don't they change the name of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA before it opens, to the Broad Building and take some of the wind out of his sails!

1/09/2008 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea to rename the building. I'm sure it must be contractually impossible. Isn't tax evasion at the core of all this?

And what is so staggering about his collection anyway? Remember the gallery in the LACMA Broad Collection show with a Salle, Schnabel, and Fischle? Truly awful. Remember the mediocre Lichtensteins and Kiefers? The man has promoted the schlockmeister Koons and is undoubtedly behind Govan's dream of a Koons train. Great idea, installing a huge train on "soil" that is actually a tarpit! Broad is probably about now ready to jump on the Murakami wagon soon. (Such great timing!)
LA doesn't need his collection. Take his "museum" please!!!

1/09/2008 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

And what is so staggering about his collection anyway?

Only this.

It may not reflect your personal tates, but sneering at something of this depth and substance strikes me as meaningless in the context of private collections. You rely on rather specific (i.e., hardly universal) biases to point out its failings. Suggesting one piece struck you as mediorcre isn't good enough in the face of such a wide range of arguably defining artists.

1/09/2008 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Buitron said...

I have this sense that Broad took what he learned in real estate development, and has applied it to art. The value in a plot of land comes from what it is in proximity to: resources to make it viable (like water and roads) and for lack of a better term, being in view of the sublime. The WPA built great lodges on the rim of the Grand Canyon and in Yosemite to allow the general public access to the sublime, much like our public art museums do. Since these public lands have yet to be privatized, Broad buys a parking structure in a nondescript section of downtown Los Angeles, and donates funds to the building of Disney Hall. Now the parking structure has a view of the sublime and can be developed at a higher price point.

Likewise Broad can contribute funds to the BCAM at LACMA, and through institutional proximity, increase the value of his collection.

Like Walt Disney he's given buildings to CalArts. Walt saw CalArts as a factory to turn out workers to produce the art to be monetized. Broad has done the same at UCLA. It all seems quite shrewd, in a capitalist sort of way.

A similar thing has gone on when Blum & Poe (and other galleries) used MOCA as a way to increase Murakami's price point. The platinum-leaf covered Oval Buddha is now featured prominently in MOCA's newsletter, adding to the works significance and value.

With the death of art criticism (from the beginning of Ed's post)to the lack of curatorial independence for museums, we seem to no longer have any outside arbiter of taste.

The measure of the sublime is now located in the price.

1/09/2008 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous EL-A said...

A collector group has just opened a private collection exhibition space in NYC.

"Wall Street collector opens private gallery in Chelsea

Artist Chuck Close is curating the inaugural show this month"


1/09/2008 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

el-a ~

Another "private" exhibition space, by appointment only, run by a mega rich collector....again taking the work out of the "public view". Sounds like another Broad model. Not impressive at all. This is why museums should be receiving these works, not ego driven wealthy collectors. The former model of collecting was to establish and enjoy a collection in ones lifetime and then donate it to a museum, where it would be cared for and entrusted to live on for the public at large to enjoy and study. Now because prices are so high, and because Wall Street collectors can buy up whatever they want there is a new generation of collector creating their own "new model" for the future. It is a shame. Gone are the days of honest philanthropy and a true passion for the art work itself, not to mention any scholarly discourse. Everyone is in the back pocket of the rich collector, artist, curator, museum director, etc. It should be the other way around. A shame. Imagine if you were to question many of these people sitting on the boards of the major museums in the country. What they know about art would fit in a thimble. When society grows weary of peering into the windows of the rich and famous, as if they are any model of how people should desire to live, then maybe we will come back to a moral standard that is more reasonable and fair. Not to mention that the Wall Street collectors are riding on a tax structure that is unique to them, paying far less than the average "Joe" on their earnings. The problem is the public's romance with these people and how they are perceived and envied. It is all smoke and mirrors for a subset of people swimming around in their fish-bowl showing off for each other. They couldn't really care less about the general public or how the art is perceived outside of their own spheres.

1/09/2008 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

The former model of collecting was to establish and enjoy a collection in ones lifetime and then donate it to a museum...

Is this true? Or is it just an assumption?

I'm not positive, but I suspect a number of 'masterpieces' have remained sequestered away in private collections for years. Does anyone really know? or is this just an unfounded assumption?

1/09/2008 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check into the archives of some of the great museums in this country. Many of the seminal collections were donated by wealthy long time collectors....the legacy families. Even MOCA in Los Angeles, just 20 some years old benefited from many generous collectors who bestowed their collections to the museum. This
"new model" is perhaps the wave of the future, but sad nonetheless because it is the collectors who are controlling what the public sees now. And...with no background whatsoever in art, or art history. It is all a joke really.

1/09/2008 08:24:00 PM  
Anonymous EL-A said...

Unless the entire global capitalist economic model completely collapses, we are not going back to the days when a Mondrian show happened in NYC by a curator putting the paintings in the back of a cab and zipping over to the museum without a dime of insurance. The world you are referring to, however wonderful it was, is gone. Only the old skeleton of NYC remains - the rest is unrecognizable to anyone who knew NYC from 20 years ago. And so now that late-or-super capitalism has clearly taken over the reins of Western Culture, will the art on display - no matter what its mode of exhibition, change for the worse or for the better, or will it just be something new altogether? Or will it really come down to there being final proof that traditional MUSEUMS are the only true carriers and cultivators of culture? I doubt it, especially from what I've seen in privately held museum collections that are in Western Europe, or the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, which is an absolute artworld treasure chest.
it may be the case that some new curatorial model or art historically significant means of receiving culture comes from the current endeavors by private collectors. Or maybe the world shood stay the way it was in 1950, for the rest of time.

1/09/2008 08:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or, the economy will collapse and everyone will have more important things to deal with than this. It is not about going back to the simplistic 50's. It is about allowing the museums to set the standards. Really, do you put a lot of stock in these collectors, other than they can buy and hoard 2,000 works of art in their "private collections". Final word, the pieces belong in museums, not in these trumped up Foundations, set up to avoid paying taxes and open "by appointment only". Ask any living artist of merit and they would be much more interested in having their seminal works in a MOMA/NYC than a Mr. and Mrs. So and So's living room! However, since Mr. and Mrs. So and So pay for their over blown life styles they will say it is fine with them....otherwise who will bank roll a Jeff Koons. No strings attached of course.

1/09/2008 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

It is about allowing the museums to set the standards.

Let's examine that: how would you know if the museums were either failing to set standards, or failing to set good standards?

1/09/2008 09:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say since the curators for the most part are educated, scholarly and work to make a contribution to the historical context of art, they could for the most part be looked upon to set the standards. It is far deeper than running around with a cocktail in ones hand blabbing about who bought what at Christie's for how much and wanting to be "seen" at the next "scene". So much of what it being made today is a rehash of what came before it, why get all worked up over it anyway. Out with the old and in with the new, for what it will be worth in the long run.

1/09/2008 09:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

You're presuming that there's no overlap between the scholarly set and the cocktail set, and I think that's mistaken. Again, how would you know if the museums were either failing to set standards, or failing to set good standards?

1/09/2008 10:08:00 PM  
Anonymous EL-A said...

The elite class of art historians come from the same part of the society as the collector class. I'm pretty sure there are some shared interests as well as shared tastes between them, beyond wearing designer gear 24/7 while jetsetting across the globe together to see the best new art where ever it is, to maintain a degree of first hand knowledge that can never only be acquired by obtaining professional degrees alone.

That I remember, both Peter Ludwig, the German chocolate magnate, and his wife, both had doctorate degrees in art history, and they were two of the most powerful private collectors in Europe, and the Ludwig Museums are among the best anywhere in the world. I am certain that there are many more examples than the one I offer here.

In Los Angeles, there are now a couple of the top of the market art galleries with private exhibition spaces that are used to show works only to collectors and curators.

And only recently there was a huge installation by a recently deceased LA artist, in which only the upper-strata of the artworld was invited to view in LA.

Perhaps these are only isolated events that are particular to LA.

1/10/2008 01:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All you Broad fans need to read the L.A. Times article today written by Christopher Knight. He puts it all in proper perspective. An honest and realistic response to the negative side of Broads decision. He has been an art critic in Los Angeles long enough to know and understand the realistic fall out of Broads decision. He apparently is not romanced by the size of Broads collection, or the size of his bank account. My hat goes off to Mr. Knight for honest reporting!

1/10/2008 08:11:00 PM  
OpenID djward said...

First, I’m an optimist. Several people have raised concerns over the tax implications and market value of the Broad Foundation’s collection which are all real concerns, but since those points have been exhausted let’s focus on the impact this has on Los Angeles and the museum industry in general.

Whether you agree with how he’s done it, Eli Broad has made some of the most significant contributions to the Los Angeles institutional art and architectural landscape. Of course his ego and wealth are intertwined with projects like the BCAM. (Broad has even said that there is an element of hubris behind his donations.) Egos come and go in the art world (even among people who are not billionaires). The end result is that we have MoCA, the BCAM, a completed Disney Concert Hall, the future Grand Avenue, etc. to enjoy thanks in large part to the Broads.

No I don’t agree the timing of his decision. Yes, reading between the lines, there has to be something else going on that impacted his change in attitude. But in theory, Broad’s decision to loan his collection rather than donate it is a valid strategy for making the work accessible to the largest possible audience. It’s a syndication model where the Broad Foundation sends works to audiences who would likely not be able to travel to LA to see them at the BCAM. (Of course, that’s great in theory, but as it’s been pointed out, the reality of the Foundation seems to be quite different.)

We’re in a time where growing museum attendance and membership is challenging for several institutions and if we want to gain exposure for the arts, maybe we need to re-think the way we approach private and institutional collections.

The real question for LACMA is “How is Govan going to respond?” He has to be getting tremendous pressure for not securing the expected Broad gift, but it’s also a huge opportunity for him to turn to the other world-class contemporary art collectors and artists in Los Angeles and build a contemporary collection unique to LACMA. It will take time and money and a lot of hard work, but in the end Govan and Stephanie Barron have a chance to turn this into a tremendous opportunity for LACMA’s contemporary art collection. Hopefully they rise to the challenge.

1/11/2008 04:07:00 PM  

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