A private museum: the only solution to enrich the cultural offer??

I’d like to report some quotes from an editorial I just written on The Los Angeles Times focusing on the issue of the month: Eli Broad’s museum.

I’ve already written about it in two previous posts, but I think it could be interesting to hear another voice, and to try to comment it…

According to the journalist the City Council, called to decide if to give to Broad a piece of property dowontown, should say yes, because it is going to be the best thing for the public.

In fact, “There is no direct cost to the public in Broad’s proposal. He is offering to spend $100 million to build a museum, and then to contribute an additional $200 million to endow it so that its operating costs will be privately paid as well”. Even if, by giving the land via a 99-year lease at $1 a year, the city won’t take any advantage from possible sales or property taxes.

But the journalist believe that this is a good opportunity as well, if we consider the positive consequences on the urban cultural offer that this museum could have: “The city and county would get a sizable art collection and what would probably be a first-rate architectural monument. The new museum could realistically be expected to draw tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of tourists a year and would create more than 1,000 construction jobs as well as full- and part-time positions once it’s complete (…) the museum could be expected to boost the value of the property around it; that’s why Related Cos., which is struggling to develop the area in this economy, supports the project”.

And then the journalist reminds to all of us that this won’t be the only museum supported by the City Council, but that there are many others (and he takes as an example the funding to the LACMA, not taking into consideration that it is a PUBLIC COUNTY museum!!!)

So nothing but positive aspects from this project, but is it really so??

The real problem, as I already written, is that, for the editorial, the museum will enrich the cultural offer and, by supporting it, the Council is going to do something important for the public. But the editorial is a little bit arbitrary asserting that this is the most effective solution to promote culture, because there could be many other solutions to do so, because L.A. already have many museums and maybe it would be a better solution to support their activity to the public.

Because the real problem for museums it is not the lack of them (we have plenty of them, maybe too many) or a great architectural site to place them but the presence of visitors in their rooms! Museums must become closer to the public, make it come back again and again to visit the collections and the exhibitions and  to participate in the educational activities… This is going to be of public utility for real!


We’re dead, said the director!

Did you want an example of what I wrote in my past posts? Here it is!

As reported by Judith H. Dobrzynski’s blog (http://www.artsjournal.com/realcleararts/2010/06/fayetteville-closure.html) another museum is going to close, a museum that no more than three years ago was planning to expand… Doesn’t it sound familiar? This time it’s the Fayetteville Museum of Art, in North Carolina.

They closed last month with a $500,000 debt and no cash for the payroll.

As reported by the FayObserver (http://fayobserver.com/articles/2010/05/30/1000551?sac=Home): “The sudden closure leaves Fayetteville, with about 207,000 residents, as the only major city in North Carolina without an art museum, although smaller art galleries are open elsewhere in the city”.

And what is it the reason, according to the museums? “An unsuccessful fundraising campaign, along with politics, shaky museum finances and the recession ultimately led to the board’s May 19 announcement to close and dismiss the staff”.

But this situation is even stranger if we consider what they were planning in 2007: “Museum officials unveiled an ambitious plan to raise $15million to build a nine-story white tower at Festival Park and establish an endowment to help operate it. It had long been their desire to relocate to the city center – to a more visible location in a bigger building”.

But now, because of serious financial problems accumulated during these last three years, the museum finally closed…

This it’s going to be the end of more than one museum if no one will find an alternative to promote and make museums grow in a sustainable way…

Collectors Museums? Not so good…

Many american museums are facing big financial troubles in the last period, but these problems doesn’t seem to affect private collectors aiming to promote their arts pieces through the creation of new exhibition buildings. Many of them, in fact, are no longer satisfied by loaing part of their works to public museums od temporary exhibitions around the world, and are trying to raise the cultural – and, most of all, the economic – value of their collection opening new sites! THE COLLECTOR, Mr. Eli Broad, in particular is about to land on the L.A. cultural landscape with an amazing and breathtaking architectural building.

But by who?

According to the Los Angeles Times on May, 25th “the competition was loaded from the start with high-profile firms. Of the six architects asked to present preliminary designs last week for the site on the corner of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street, four are winners of the Pritzker Prize, the field’s most prestigious award. They include Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture; Swiss pair Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron; French architect Christian de Portzamparc; and Japanese duo Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima, whose Tokyo firm, SANAA, is the winner of this year’s Pritzker. The other firms asked to take part are New York-based Diller, Scofidio & Renfro, designers of the 2006 Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, among other projects, and London’s Foreign Office Architects. According to a source with knowledge of the competition – who asked not to be named, citing the confidentiality of the process – a group of architectural advisors organized by Broad last Wednesday narrowed the six firms to two finalists. They are Koolhaas and Diller, Scofidio & Renfro. Broad has said he wants to move quickly on the museum; assuming he can win the needed site approvals without significant delays, he hopes to open its doors by 2012 or 2013″.

And so, here we come again: public museums all around the world are facing one of the worst financial crisis of their history but, as looking at private collectors, there’s going to be more wonderful archispots to be seen all around the world. So, the new future competitors for museums are going to be private collectors exhibition buildings???

And the question, of course, is: what do public museums want to do in order to face this new “attack”? This is going to be the most important question to be answered for museums willing not to close.

P.S. Personal Note: I’d suggest to Mr. Broad to pick up Scofidio&Renfro, love them! Here’s a pic of their Museu da Imagem e do Som in Rio de Janeiro.