LACMA Offers Plan to Merge With MOCA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art CEO Michael Govan has reached out the Museum of Contemporary Art with a formal merger proposal

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has made a formal proposal to merge with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, LACMA CEO Michael Govan announced on Thursday.

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The offer comes after MOCA, which has been facing financial struggles and board defections in recent years, approached LACMA to discuss the possibility of combining the two cultural institutions.

Also read: MOCA Postpones Gala to Spring Amid Turmoil in Top Ranks

"Like so many others in the art world, we appreciate the impact MOCA has had, both on Los Angeles and on the world stage," Govan said in a statement. "Combining LACMA and MOCA would strengthen both."

Calls to MOCA for comment were not immediately returned.

An individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap that LACMA's board of directors discussed the merger proposal at their Feb. 20 meeting. The overture to MOCA reportedly was made a few days later. The source also said that LACMA's interest in MOCA would have no bearing on several of its other expansion plans including one with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to develop a museum in the old May Company building on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax.

A spokeswoman for LACMA would not address specifics of the merger offer. However, the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story Thursday, said the offer included a pledge of a $100 million fund-raising campaign for the two museums. 

This is the second attempt LACMA has made to merge with MOCA. The earlier proposal came in 2008 when MOCA was facing huge financial difficulties but a $30 million donation to MOCA from the foundation of Eli Broad, the art collector and life trustee of MOCA who also has ties to LACMA, stabilized the musuem's financial situation.

A spokeswoman for Broad, who is building a musuem to house his considerable collection of art across the street from MOCA's main campus on Grand Avenue, had no comment on Thursday's developments.

Also read: Academy Museum Finds Home at LACMA (Exclusive, Updated)

In addtiion to its financial problems in 2008, MOCA has been plagued by controversy in recent years.  Since the hiring of current director Jeffrey Deitch, a former New York gallery owner, in January, 2010 several board members, including prominent artists John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger and Catherine Opie, left the museum in protest over MOCA's exhibition polices, which the artists deemed too commercial.  Paul Schimmel, the museum's  chief curator, was forced out last June ending a 22-year tenure. Another prominent curator, Rebecca Morse, left later in the year for LACMA.

MOCA and USC held talks last December on a possible partnership.