Arts

Open letter to MOCA trustees *

Times critic Christopher Knight today calls out the financially flailing Museum of Contemporary Art for mishandling its future.

I read with interest in Wednesday's paper about the fiscal calamity plaguing the Museum of Contemporary Art, which seems to suggest that the nation's premier institution for art of the past 50 years is just about broke. I also read about the possible rescue plans you are prepared to pursue, in a desperate scramble to save your sinking ship. I've been hearing about others.

And if what I've been hearing is true, I have just one question: Are you freakin' kidding me? What on Earth do you think you're doing?

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Ten years ago, in the spring of 1998, The Times reported that MOCA was operating on a $10-million annual budget with a nearly $50-million endowment. A ratio of 1 to 5 -- or even 1 to 4, if you were exaggerating numbers then -- for budget to endowment is pretty good for a nonprofit.

Last year, by grim contrast, MOCA was reportedly operating on close to a $20-million annual budget with a $20-million endowment. That's a ratio of 1 to 1 -- the technical term for which is "suicide."

The Times' Mike Boehm reported yesterday on the museum's financial crisis, which may force MOCA to merge with another institution. Tyler Green, blogging at Modern Art Notes while here in Los Angeles this week, has new details of board meetings and emails and spoke with LACMA director Michael Govan about the situation.

* 10:05 am update: MOCA board preparing to formally approach LACMA about a merger, Knight posts at LATimes.com.


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