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Could Two Major LA Museums Be Merging?

Illustration by Hyperallergic
Illustration by Hyperallergic

Two of the biggest art museums in California may soon become one. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has made a proposal to acquire the Museum of Contemporary Art, a smaller institution that has lately been unstable with mounting budget problems and controversy over Jeffrey Deitch‘s tenure as director.

The proposal is not an aggressive move; rather, MOCA’s leadership initiated the request for a proposal, explains to LACMA director Michael Govan. Talks have been going on for years, the director says, including a proposed merger in 2008. Govan made the acquisition offer official in a February 24 letter to the MOCA board.

Under the terms of the acquisition, LACMA will preserve MOCA’s two downtown locations and the spaces will still be run under the MOCA brand. To fulfill the proposal, LACMA will raise $100 million for the combined museums.

“MOCA has a great brand, a great history, and its art collection is known and loved internationally,” Govan tells the L.A. Times. Rolling in MOCA’s contemporary programming with LACMA’s encyclopedic collection would “create one of the largest and most significant art museums in the U.S,” Govan says. The deal isn’t complete yet, however — MOCA has also been in talks with the University of Southern California about a partnership.

Under Deitch’s time in office, MOCA has lost a large part of its curatorial department, including chief curator Paul Schimmel, and hemorrhaged its artist-trustees, with art-world lights like John Baldessari and Catherine Opie leaving the museum.

UPDATE: Michael Govan, the director of LACMA, has taken to the museum’s blog to explain:

Combining LACMA and MOCA would strengthen both. LACMA’s mission is to share world-class art with the widest array of audiences possible. MOCA’s downtown location, extraordinary collection and devoted constituency, combined with LACMA’s modern art masterpieces, large audiences and broad educational outreach (especially in schools near downtown L.A.) would create a cultural institution that is much more than the sum of its parts. LACMA’s strong leadership, its history of fundraising, and its support from Los Angeles County and other donors will provide MOCA with the stability it deserves.

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