Monday, November 29, 2021

Is LACMA’s fundraising campaign sluggish?

Huge fundraising problems for the new $ 750 million Los Angeles County Museum of Art building crystallized in an interview with LACMA director Michael Govan, who told The Times. the campaign is valued at $ 679 million this week, just $ 24 million more than a year ago.

LACMA is in a hurry to complete its controversial new building, designed by the Pritzker laureate Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The construction of the building that LACMA plans to complete in As Govan admitted, it has slowed this year in 2024 due to fossil finds. Construction costs, given supply chain problems, labor shortages, and inflation, could easily skyrocket. Fundraising was sluggish at best.

However, the director of the museum is not worried: “I feel great – this was a historic achievement,” Govan said of where fundraising in the face of the pandemic is worth. If not for the closure of the COVID-related museum, which lasted more than a year, he added, “we would be even further.”

“When your museum is closed, it’s difficult to walk people out and talk about what you are doing,” Govan said of why campaign gifts are delayed. “But since the summer we have been back to it and there are many new people and seven-figure gifts from people who have never been associated with LACMA before.”

The total fundraising amount includes $ 554 million in private donations; and $ 125 million from Los Angeles County Taxpayers. The museum did not say how many private donations were paid versus promises.

LACMA’s latest financial report for fiscal 2020-21, published on the independent audit website, said the museum had pledged more than $ 160 million as of June 30. Govan, however, said that this figure does not necessarily reflect general promises, as “There are all kinds of collateral – some of them are legally binding but cannot be booked until a certain date, ”he said. “However, they are all binding obligations, which means the same as cash in the sense that we can count on them.”

In 2017, the museum received $ 150 million from entertainment tycoon David Geffen, $ 50 million from casino and hotel tycoon Elaine Wynn, co-chair of the LACMA board of trustees, in 2016, and $ 50 million from Los Angeles-based WM Keck Foundation in January. 2020 (Keck CEO Robert A. Day is LACMA’s Life Trustee).

Major campaign gifts are now on hold. “We are not announcing new gifts at this time,” museum spokesman Jessica Yoon said via email.

Time is now the biggest enemy. As construction progresses, costs rise; As of last fall, construction is scheduled to be completed in 2023, one year earlier than the current schedule. However, Govan insists that the total cost of the project, which he estimates at $ 650 million, of which $ 100 million has been allocated for “contingencies” such as higher prices for building materials and labor, has not changed.

“We predicted that we would have big contingencies so we can embrace the change,” Govan said. “This may be constantly changing now, but at the moment we have big contingencies that allow us to keep costs at the same level.”

Will the county have to bear the brunt of the funding shortfall if spending exceeds $ 100 million in unforeseen expenses?

Simply put, “No,” said Govan. “They don’t expect more because the whole goal was to create a big influx, a new high bar for private money going to culture in Los Angeles.”

The future building of LACMA, the David Geffen Gallery, has become a lightning rod for criticism for its an amorphous, blob-like design — a one-story showroom erected on props and crossing Wilshire Boulevard — and its reduced footprint, 10% less than the previous Zumthor project. His the rising cost – the original project price was $ 600 million – and the forecasted debt also sparked controversy. And Govan’s vision of a new LACMA – a non-hierarchical, decentralized museum featuring alternating installations of permanent collections alongside artwork in satellites – there was nothing but disagreement.

The pandemic didn’t help matters: LACMA, which charges $ 20 adult admission for Los Angeles County residents, has been closed for more than a year. In fiscal 2018 – the last year the museum was reopened for 12 months – LACMA earned about $ 5.6 million in admission receipts, according to its 990. The museum reopened to the public in April.

How the art will be displayed in the new galleries has long been a mystery. The museum has postponed the release of the highly anticipated floor plan of the new building several times. Govan originally promised this plan by March 2020. Then, in April, the release date was pushed back to early summer. LACMA finally presented the plan in September 2020. The new building will have 110,000 square feet of exhibition space.

LACMA began demolishing four buildings in April 2020, starting with the 1965 Leo S. Byng Center by William L. Pereira. At the same time, three other buildings were demolished internally, the 1960s Hammer and Ahmanson Pereira buildings, and the 1980s Art of the Americas by Hardy Holtzman Pfeiffer Associates. Demolition ended in fall 2020. (Architecture buffs, take comfort: images of Pereira’s buildings still represent LACMA on Google Maps.)

Three buildings now remain on the LACMA campus: Bruce Goff’s 1988 Japanese Art Pavilion, Broad Museum of Contemporary Art (BCAM), and Resnick. The pavilion, the last two of which were erected in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

Meanwhile, the construction of the new building is moving forward, with the current focus on the foundation. Excavation and formwork is underway on both sides of Wilshire, and concrete is being poured for the basement walls in areas on the north side of the boulevard.

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However, during the construction process, one might say, some acute problems arose.

In the end of January large cranes fell on the north side of Wilshire because the land beneath the museum – which is adjacent to La Brea Tar Pits & Museum – Underneath them was a problem caused by “soil and resin conditions,” Yun said. The crane foundation needs to be adjusted and these were replaced by lighter mobile cranes without delaying the project. Yoon said the museum is currently conducting extensive testing of the foundation piles and installing additional foundation piles, providing the main support for the building when it is on the ground.

“Cranes are not a problem,” Govan said when asked how the problem affected the timeline and budget. “Time is not wasted.”

This summer, however, the museum faced another, ancient problem that did cause significant delays: the fossil record. During excavations on the north side of Wilshire – process controlled Paleontological consultants, as LACMA is a place rich in fossils – ice age tar deposits have been discovered along with the remains of extinct animals such as land sloths and saber-toothed cats.

Fossil extraction slowed down construction.

“This is great for science, but not for our timeline,” Govan said, adding that the problem caused “months of delays”.

Why does this increase costs?

“Until the project is completed, we will not know all this 100%,” Govan said. “Once we get to the fossils, we have more information to identify all of this.”

“Finding and extracting fossils required re-sequencing work to focus on other areas of the construction site while the fossils were excavated,” added Yoon. “The mining of the fossils is ongoing and has resulted in delays and the scale will not be determined until the mining of the fossils is complete.”

There are highlights: while museum revenues have plummeted from $ 287 million in fiscal 2018 to $ 153 million in fiscal 2019, donations to LACMA, like many other museums, surged during the pandemic. This is snow more than $ 175 million, according to the financial report of LACMA for 2020-2021 – this is An increase of 37% in the 15 months of the pandemic to June 2021. Museum also Receives more than $ 30 million annually in support for the county to cover its $ 70 million operating budget, according to its latest financial report – roughly equivalent to an additional $ 600 million in donations as museums receive an average of 4-5% percent of donations on average. funds.

However, according to the museum’s latest financial records, there are currently nearly $ 822 million in arrears. It will have to start paying off a $ 300 million loan from Los Angeles County to support the construction project from 2022. – the size of the first payment is $ 4.2 million. The loan is not part of the total fundraising amount.

Until recently, Govan received free housing as a reward for employment, bringing him compensation: in fiscal 2019 to nearly $ 2 million.

As the budget for the construction project grew, Govan’s housing situation deteriorated. In September 2020 Museum Associates, a nonprofit organization that oversees LACMA, has put up Govan’s house in Hancock Park for sale. for $ 6.6 million. He moved to a less expensive house in the Mid Wilshire area that was owned by the museum. In February 2021, the museum put the house up for sale for $ 2.4 million. As of March this year Govan lived in an elite Malibu trailer park. not paid by the museum.

“That was great – that was what we could do during the pandemic, ”Govan said. “So it’s good, we’re doing well. Now I drive a lot. “

LACMA will welcome guests on Saturday at its annual Art + Film Gala, this year honoring artists Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley and director Steven Spielberg. This is a vibrant event that attracts celebrities, public figures and artists from all over the world. This event is the first fundraising event for the museum. At the last in-person gala held in 2019, honored installer Bethier Saar and Roma writer-director Alfonso Cuarón raised over $ 4.6 million for programs, exhibitions and the acquisition of the museum.

Two major exhibitions will open at LACMA on Sunday. The Obama Portrait Tour will feature official portraits of President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama by Wiley and Sherald, respectively. The work was presented at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in 2018 – Wylie and Sherald were the first African American artists selected by the institution for such commissions. The exhibition, part of a five-city tour, was organized by the National Portrait Gallery.

LACMA also presents a series of “Black American Portraits” in which The 150 works, mostly from the museum’s permanent collection, “focus on black objects, spaces and creators,” as the museum describes it. The exhibition, which covers the period from 1800 to the present day, is a kind of tribute to the 1976 LACMA exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art, which was a pioneering study of African American art at the time.

“There is a huge positive momentum again after the opening,” Govan said, referring to both exhibitions and fundraising.

Govan says that in the final months of 2021, just days before the gala, he approaches fundraising “with great confidence.”

“This is what fundraising is all about,” he said. “The more you do, the more you can do. It is not an exhaustible resource, everything works the other way around. “

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