Enthusiastic about the possibility of creating a museum to house a world renowned contemporary art collection, the Santa Monica City Council is looking to move the plans ahead, knowing that it faces competition for such a desired facility.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday, November 17th to consider a conceptual proposal by the Broad Foundations to establish a public contemporary art museum in the Civic Center area and to ask city staff to begin negotiations with the foundations on the museum plans.
The Broad Foundations, which are led by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife Edythe and include the Broad Art Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, have proposed to create a world-class public museum and art archive for their contemporary collection. The foundations’ pieces are considered to be among the world’s finest collections of contemporary art, including about 2,000 artworks by more than 200 renowned artists such as Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Jasper Johns and Anselm Kiefer.
“Our city is being offered a unique and breathtaking opportunity,” Elena Allen, former chair of the Santa Monica Arts Commission, told the council.
“(The Broads’) is a rich and dazzling collection of contemporary art. To have these artists and their works in our midst will be a special privilege.”
The Broad Foundations’ plan for the city would be to lease approximately 2.5 acres of city land for the museum to be designed by a currently unidentified internationally renowned architect. The foundation would pay all but a small portion of the design and construction costs, construct and operate the museum and establish an endowment to cover ongoing operational costs. The facility would be established through a development agreement or a disposition and development agreement, staff said.
The city would in return invest perhaps $1 million toward design and construction, lease the site to the foundations, provide adequate parking and install exterior landscaping.
Santa Monica’s Civic Center is believed to be a prime candidate for the Broads’ public museum concept, staff note. But the city is not the only candidate, as the City of Beverly Hills and another undisclosed city are reportedly pushing to have the museum constructed within their boundaries.
“I want to caution you all that this is a very competitive process, not only in Santa Monica but around town,” City Councilman Bobby Shriver told the audience.
The council is looking to expedite the planning process given the competition for the museum’s home and because “time is of the essence” to the Broad Foundations in selecting a location, staff said.
While some of the Broads’ art pieces are displayed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and loaned to other museums, the majority of works are in storage and inaccessible to the public at the Broad Art Foundation facility on Barnard Way, Santa Monica cultural affairs manager Jessica Cusick said. The foundations hope to make the collections available to the public and are exploring the best way to do so.
In a report to the council, City Manager Lamont Ewell noted that the museum offers the city an opportunity to promote the arts and enhance cultural opportunities at the Civic Center. Officials and a number of speakers also referred to the prime location of the proposed museum, which would be accessible by public and private transportation and in the “heart” of the city, close to restaurants, businesses and the ocean.
“This is the place that the museum should be for a lot of reasons,” said Misti Kerns, Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau president.
City Councilman Kevin McKeown said the foundations are offering the city a “remarkable opportunity” with a wide and deep art collection, but the city is also providing a highly desirable site.
“We are offering the Broad Foundation, frankly, quite a gem because this is a location in the heart of the community,” McKeown said.
Representatives of the school district were quick to point out the educational benefits of such a museum possibly being located across the street from Santa Monica High School.
“I think this is a legacy that our students deserve for many years to come,” Samohi Principal Hugo Pedroza told the council.
Shriver said that although he is strongly supportive of creating the museum, as the city goes through the process, it should consider that it would be making a “large expenditure of city assets” by using the land.
Noting that Santa Monica is currently competing for the opportunity, some council members expressed confidence that the city will ultimately be picked and that officials should not let the chance slip away.
“I share everyone’s enthusiasm about this fantastic project and I agree that this is an opportunity that we might not see again for quite some time,” Councilwoman Gleam Davis said.