Billionaire Broad chooses downtown LA site for art museum after getting committee approval

By Jacob Adelman, AP
Monday, August 23, 2010

Billionaire picks downtown LA site for art museum

LOS ANGELES — Art museums in Los Angeles generally have pricey gift shops, haute fast-food cafeterias and billionaire Eli Broad’s name prominently etched on the list of supporters.

Now the developer-turned-philanthropist has plans for the first freestanding museum bearing his name, which will be built in an emerging downtown cultural district that also was formed largely with his backing.

Broad on Monday announced his decision to build in Los Angeles minutes after a committee of state and local officials voted to let him lease county-owned land along Grand Avenue for the structure that could cost as much as $100 million.

The project is being cast as a possible boon to the ongoing cultural rebirth of downtown Los Angeles and has the support of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The 35,000 square feet of gallery space would feature paintings, sculptures and photos from Broad’s 2,000-piece collection, which includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Salvador Dali and Joan Miro that are not currently on permanent public display.

“There’s clearly more art than there is gallery space,” said Karen Denne, a spokeswoman for Broad. “This creates additional gallery space, an additional public museum so that these works are accessible to as many people as possible.”

Among other activities, the Broad Art Foundation will coordinate loans of artwork to other institutions from the planned venue that includes a total of 120,000 square feet of space.

Broad had considered a site in Santa Monica, though he had spoken favorably about the downtown site beside the Walt Disney Concert Hall and across from the Museum of Contemporary Art, both of which he played a role in having built.

Under the deal for the land for the new museum, the Broad Art Foundation will pay $7.7 million over the course of a 99-year-lease for the 2.5-acre parcel that was originally set aside as part of a stalled $3 billion shopping, hotel and condo complex known as the Grand Avenue project.

The deal also obliges Broad to finance the museum’s construction and contribute $200 million toward its operation.

The 76-year-old Broad, whose net worth was pegged this year by Forbes magazine at $5.7 billion, has winnowed his choice of architects for the project to the office of Dutch designer Rem Koolhaas and New York-based Diller, Scofidio & Renfro.

Denne said Broad began considering the downtown spot at the urging of Villaraigosa.

“The museum will be an important cornerstone of the Grand Avenue project and play a pivotal role in the cultural and artistic renaissance currently under way,” the mayor said in a statement.

Broad, who made his billions as co-founder of developer KB Home and through the sale of insurer SunAmerica, has already done much toward advancing the arts on Grand Avenue.

He was founding chairman of the Arata Isozaki-designed Museum of Contemporary Art in 1979, one of the earliest cultural venues to join the Music Center performing arts complex among the high-rises coming to dominate Bunker Hill.

Broad was also instrumental in helping fund the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall; a sleek Los Angeles Unified School District arts campus by Viennese designer Wolf Prix; and Our Lady of Angels Cathedral by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. He also helped select architects for the concert hall and school.

Off Grand Avenue, he made a $60 million gift to build and support the Renzo Piano-designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s west Los Angeles campus, where some of the contemporary art collection already resides.

Other institutions bearing his name include the Eli and Edythe Broad Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, to which he donated $23.2 million.

“Other cities think about who could transform our city. Los Angeles has someone who actually is transforming the city,” said Rochelle Steiner, dean of the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Fine Arts.

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