MOCA L.A. Declares Independence Increases Endowment to Over $100 Million


The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles has announced that it has exceeded a fundraising goal to quadruple its endowment, increasing the fund to a record high of more than $100 million over a 10-month period in 2013. The museum has also set a new goal of raising another $50 million.

Donors are primarily board members, said outgoing board co-chair David Johnson in a phone interview today. Other contributors include foundations such as the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and individuals such as former director Jeffrey Deitch.

“The only condition on the donations is that the museum remain independent,” interim director Maria Seferian told A.i.A. today.

The museum’s endowment had dipped to about $5 million at the end of 2008, and the museum entered discussions with other institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, about possible mergers or collaborations on programming.

Such measures have proved unnecessary thanks to recent donor largesse.

“In terms of endowment, this puts us above many like-sized institutions,” Seferian said.

“The new endowment places us near the top among contemporary art museums,” Johnson said. He added, “The museum has an incredibly strong balance sheet in that it has no debt at all.”

The new fundraising high is welcome news for a museum that has seen controversy over the last several years.

MOCA appointed Deitch, a longtime New York dealer, as director in 2010, a controversial appointment in light of his commercial background. After three years of a tumultuous leadership, Deitch resigned in July. The museum is now working to conclude its search for a director, according to a press release. Candidates are chiefly museum professionals, outgoing board co-chair Maria Bell said in the phone interview today.

The museum suffered board and staff defections while its finances lagged. All four artist-trustees-John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha-resigned in summer 2012, saying that Deitch was focused on spectacle over scholarship. However, they have joined the search committee for a new director since his resignation. Longtime curator Paul Schimmel also left the museum in summer 2012 and now works with Hauser & Wirth Gallery.

The news about the endowment comes as Bell and Johnson finish their terms as co-chairs of the museum’s board of trustees, stepping down as of Jan. 14. The co-chairs led the fundraising effort along with campaign co-chairs Eugenio Lopez, the Mexico City-based art collector, and philanthropist Jeffrey Soros. Maurice Marciano, co-founder of the Guess Jeans company, and cancer activist Lilly Tartikoff Karatz will be the new board co-chairs. Marciano has reportedly begun to plan a private museum in a former Masonic temple in Los Angeles.

In fiscal year 2012, the most recent year for which tax filings are available, the museum’s contributions and grants totaled $14.6 million. This was down from contributions and grants of $29.5 million in fiscal year 2008. In 2012, Deitch’s compensation was $916,377.

Founded in 1979, the museum is the only L.A. institution devoted to contemporary art, and has holdings of more than 6,800 objects.