The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has had a wild week. On Saturday, its fall gala earned $3.85 million and featured an appearance from Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and then came a pair of very big announcements: the L.A. County board of supervisors approved $125 million to begin work on a thoroughgoing Peter Zumthor-designed consolidation of the east side of its campus; and reclusive media magnate A. Jerrold Perenchio, former chairman and CEO of Univision, is donating $500 million worth of Impressionist and modern masterworks to the collection—contingent upon the renovations being finished by 2023.
The building’s partial funding by the city—the renovations will cost approximately $600 million in total—is a coup for the museum, which announced the makeover in June 2013, and has had to go through at least one major re-draft when it was discovered the proposed design would disturb the adjacent La Brea Tar Pits.
At a press conference this morning, Perenchio, who has a career-long policy of avoiding the press, acknowledged unanimous support from the city, gesturing to L.A. County supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represented the board at the event. “It’s unheard of. We should send all of you to Washington.”
LACMA director Michael Govan later added that a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times supporting the public expenditure was also key. “It’s great to feel the collective spirit of the government and the newspaper,” he told A.i.A. LACMA will rely on its board of trustees to raise the remaining $475 million.
“The Museum of Modern Art elevated the landscape of New York, and Michael learned that when he was working at Dia,” Bettina Korek, who runs the independent local arts organization ForYourArt, told A.i.A. “The process they’re going through here is unique to Los Angeles, but it’s elevating the city in the same way. It’s elegant, and it marks a milestone that L.A. is grown up.”
The Perenchio collection boasts examples by Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Picasso and Magritte, along with three Monets. Govan was particularly keen on the latter: “Being able to tell the story of the Impressionists is important for us,” he told A.i.A. “I can draw a line directly from Monet to James Turrell. Turrell was looking at Monet and how he used light.”
The 83-year-old Perenchio, who has lived in L.A. for 70 years, conveyed that it was his desire to encourage other collectors to invest in LACMA, and perhaps donate their collections to the public, that inspired his decision.
LACMA won’t get the collection if it doesn’t complete the building by 2023, at which time a Metro Purple Line subway station is also expected to open. “Failure is not an option here,” said Perenchio. “We have to do it.”