The museum has operated at a deficit in six of the last eight years, and its endowment has shrunk to about $6 million from nearly $50 million in 1999, according to people who have been briefed on the finances.
Now the California attorney general has begun an audit to determine if the museum broke laws governing the use of restricted money by nonprofit organizations. And local artists, curators and collectors, including current and former board members, are lobbying to remove the museum’s director, Jeremy Strick, its board, or both.
The museum’s tailspin has brought an outpouring of grief and disbelief in a city that has recently cast itself as a rival to New York as the nation’s art capital. The closing of such a respected museum, or even its merger into another institution, would leave a formidable hole not only in the city’s psyche but in the national cultural landscape as well.
The philanthropist Eli Broad wrote an opinion piece in the LA Times in November offering $30 million to the museum, if his donation could be matched by other donors– but so far, no bites. The LA Times’ arts blog CultureMonster has been keeping tabs on developments, with interesting comments from the blogosphere following quickly on its heels. Will this be the first major museum to face closure in the economic downturn?