Eli Broad has changed course and decided not to donate his impressive collection to any museums — including LACMA, which is close to finishing the Broad Contemporary Art Museum on Wilshire. Today's New York Times calls it "a striking reversal by Mr. Broad," who instead will keep control of his art in a foundation and loan it out to museums for exhibition. "I think it’s a new model that makes sense for other collections,” Broad said. “If it was up to me, I believe that museums ought to own works jointly.” But Edward Wyatt says in the NYT:
Coming on the eve of the opening, the decision is a potential embarrassment for the Los Angeles museum. It was widely criticized in 2001 for mounting a major exhibition of works from Mr. Broad’s collection without having secured a promised gift of the works, an act that is prohibited at many prominent art institutions because it can increase the market value of the collection.
The decision also has far-reaching implications for the way museums interact with big donors. In recent years a dizzying rise in art prices and an abiding institutional thirst for acquisitions have given well-heeled donors more influence over what a museum buys and puts on its walls....
His decision not to donate his holdings evolved over the last year, Mr. Broad said, as his collection grew, and it became clear that no museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art included, would commit to placing a large percentage of the works on permanent exhibit.
New York art dealer and blogger Edward Winkleman calls it part of a "seismic shift in the landscape" in Los Angeles art:
What does this mean for artists? Well, essentially it means that the ultimate prize may no longer be getting your work into a museum, but rather into a high-profile collection (i.e., so that it will be exhibited more frequently). The problem with that scenario, as I see it, is that whereas there's public pressure on museums not to deaccession work, there's no such pressure on private collectors. Therefore, there's more risk that one's work will end-up, not being preserved for posterity, but rather dumped at auction when the tides of fashion shift. Museums take a very long view of their holdings. It's hard to say what the long view for a lending foundation might be.
Tyler Green calls Winkleman's take "must-read analysis."
* Added take: Lee Rosenbaum at Arts Journal.com says "The Feb. 16 public opening of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's new Broad Contemporary Art Museum will now be almost as hollow and broken as the Koons egg...that serves as BCAM's homepage logo."