Felix Salmon

A Broad retreat

By Felix Salmon
November 16, 2009

Last year, I applauded Eli Broad for not donating his art to Lacma, and instead keeping it in his own foundation, whence it could and would be lent out around the world. I even suggested that it might make more sense to donate art to the Broad Foundation than to a museum:

Museums tend not to spend any time or effort lending out the works they’re not showing: if they’re asked they might say yes, but they’re not proactive about it. So while they might claim to be driven by the desire to show art to the public, in reality they only really want to do that within their own four walls.

Broad’s new foundation, by contrast, will exist with the stated purpose of truly maximizing the public exposure that its art receives. That’s a proposition which could be very attractive to collectors wondering what to do with their legacy: they provide the art, and Broad will take care of all the paperwork and relationship management. So if you’re buttering up a gallerist, maybe the best thing to do is no longer to hint that you’re thinking of donating your collection to a museum: better that you hint that you’re thinking of donating your collection to Eli Broad.

Of course, this was the charitable view of Broad. The uncharitable view was that he was just another collector with a big ego, who wanted to keep his art for himself and his own greater glory. Now comes the news that he’s playing off Santa Monica against Beverly Hills and a third LA location to build a huge new public monument to himself:

The conceptual drawings for the Beverly Hills museum, delivered to city officials last month, show a much bigger project than the original proposal: a 126,600-square-foot, three-story building with the footprint of an arrow pointing east.

Of that, a museum of about 43,000 square feet and an adjoining 6,100-square-foot outdoor sculpture court would occupy the top floor, compared with the first proposal’s total 25,000 square feet of exhibition space. An additional 67,000 square feet would provide an “archive” for the art not on display and offices for all three Broad foundations — for art, education and medical research.

Inevitably, any museum of this size will overshadow the part of the foundation which exists to lend out unexhibited art. That idea was potentially very powerful and new, but it seems that Broad has retreated to the more boring and old-fashioned paradigm of simply exhibiting his own art himself. It’s now pretty clear where Broad’s priorities lie, and I have no faith at all that his foundation will do something game-changing. A shame.

2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

It is disappointing. He does have a very nice collection. However, his vanity seems to be his most prized possesion.

Posted by kthomas | Report as abusive

It was pretty obvious from the get go that this would happen. He should have given it to LACMA. At least it would have benefitted the museum and the local community.

Posted by david | Report as abusive

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