A couple of weeks ago, we reported on a new non-profit, SaveLACMA, which is trying to put some new constraints on the museum’s big renovation project by placing a measure on the ballot for a special election in April. As has been widely reported, the museum plans to replace several of its older buildings with a single new building spanning Wilshire Blvd., and the project has recently won significant approval votes from the LA Board of Supervisors and the LA City Council. At the same time, though, there has been some vehement criticism from the art and architecture communities, largely because the project as now planned would reduce rather than expand the museum’s local gallery space, and would move more of its permanent collection to storage and/or new “satellite” galleries around the city.
This week there have been a couple of major developments on both sides of the project efforts.
First, although there has been some speculation in recent months that fundraising for the project has stalled while cost estimates are increasing, LACMA announced on January 30 the receipt of a $50 million pledge from the W.M. Keck Foundation (which is run by Robert A. Day, a lifetime member of LACMA’s Board of Trustees).
According to an LA Times story about the donation, it ends a roughly year-long fundraising drought for the project, and likely brings the total pledged for the project to about $640 million. The currently stated price tag for the project is about $750 million, and LACMA Director Michael Govan said in the Times story that the museum will now turn to a public fundraising effort to raise the rest of the money.
The day after the Keck Foundation donation was announced, however, opposition voices were also amplified by the placement of full page ads in both the L. A. Times and New York Times, urging the public to “Save LAMCA from Tanking,” and citing what its sponsors believe is actually a 65% reduction in gallery space in the new building. The ad contained a link to the website SaveLACMA.org…but people familiar with the ongoing efforts of the ballot-measure-promoting SaveLACMA non-profit group (the one the Buzz reported on recently) were surprised when that group, started by local preservationists and history experts Kim Cooper, Richard Schave, and Robert Hollman, posted angry messages on its social media accounts saying the newspaper ads were not run by them and not associated with their efforts.
On Tuesday, though, the art and culture blog Hyperalleric helped sort things out. In a story called, The Bizarre Story Behind the Newspaper Ads Criticizing LACMA’s Expansion Plan, it was explained that two different groups are now using the SaveLACMA name, and are having a bit of a dustup about which group can legally claim the rights to do so.
As explained in the Hyperallergic story, the newspaper ads…
“….were actually placed by “The Citizens Brigade to Save LACMA,” a group founded by Greg Goldin and Joseph Giovaninni, journalists who also have been vocally critical of LACMA’s new plan. Last April, Giovannini wrote an extensive takedown of the proposal for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Just last week, Goldin and Giovannini posted a two-part video to YouTube titled “A Pattern of Deception: Michael Govan’s Plan for a New LACMA,” in which the pair discuss their criticism of the plan over glasses of red wine.”
The Buzz has also spoken with both groups in the last few weeks, and learned that both started organizing independently a few months ago — Goldin and Giovannini purchased the savelacma.org domain name, which now points to their Citizens Brigade to Save LACMA website, while Cooper, Schave and Hollman registered SaveLACMA as an official non-profit organization, accessible at the URL ourlacma.org. At one point, the two groups did apparently discuss joining forces…but that didn’t pan out and now both have moved ahead independently. That said, however, while the two groups may disagree about who has the greater claim to the “SaveLACMA” name or URL, they do still share the same goal: to get people (and especially potential donors) to think twice before supporting the LACMA project (which both groups predict will be much more expensive than current financial estimates)…to protect the long-term health of the museum as a cultural insitution (particularly when it comes to public access to the museum’s permanent collection)…and to bring a greater measure of transparency and oversight to the remodeling discussion.
Cooper, Schave and Hollman feel those goals would best be ensured by the ballot measure for which they’re now collecting signatures…while Goldin said his and Giovannini’s goals are less formal. “Our aim is to get the facts out there as we understand them about how bad this “bridge” is,” Goldin told the Buzz, “and to ask Michael Govan, “What am I paying for?”
And that’s the part they hope the public will focus on.