A new paradigm for donating art?

broad190.jpgThe Los Angeles County Museum of Art is putting a brave face on what must be a crushing blow for their acquisition hopes:

Eli Broad, the billionaire financier and philanthropist whose private collection of some 2,000 works of Modern and contemporary art is one of the most sought-after by museums nationwide, has decided to retain permanent control of his works in an independent foundation that makes loans to museums rather than give any of the art away. (more…)

Increasingly major art collectors seem dissatisfied with the restrictions and limitations slapped on to works once they’ve been given to museums, particularly the inability of museums to exhibit only a fraction of the works in their collection. The solution? Start your own museum, or in Broad’s case, devise an alternative model. From Broad’s point of view, the move ensures maximum exposure for his carefully assembled collection, as the foundation will be able to make loans to other institutions more flexibly and frequently than any single museum would. Yet moving control of artworks from public institutions to private foundations potentially carries serious long-term consequences, especially as the number of new privately-funded museums multiplies. One of the strengths of the museum setting is the ability to study and see works in context with one another, to create relationships through display and exhibition– goals that can also be reached through Broad’s model, but one wonders about the fundamental distance (practical and in principle) between works held in the public trust and those which remain stubbornly part of a single individual’s legacy…

Update: Read on for reaction from Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times, whose opinion on the move is summarised by his quote from Richard Lacayo’s Time Magazine blog: “LACMA got screwed.”