By Jonathan Friedman
November 18, 2009 -- Before an energized overflow
crowd, the City Council on Tuesday directed City staff to
speed up negotiations with the Broad Foundation to bring
a museum to the Civic Center featuring Edythe and Eli Broad’s
world-famous contemporary art collection.
“Not only is it a fabulous opportunity to build a
museum in the heart of our city that does house a world-class
art collection, the synergy it would create … [for]
other cultural venues in our city and our educational institutions,
I think is fabulous,” Council member Gleam Davis said.
The museum is proposed for a 2.5-acre City-owned property
on Main Street between County Courthouse and the Civic Auditorium.
The Foundation would lease the site for a “nominal
amount” and pay for most of the design and construction
The Foundation would operate the museum and establish an
endowment to cover ongoing operational costs. The Foundation
also wants to select the architect, which it says would
be “internationally renowned.”
But Santa Monica is no shoe-in to house what many consider
to be the top contemporary art collection in the world.
Beverly Hills has been in talks with the Foundation for
about a year to put a museum at the intersection of Wilshire
and Santa Monica Boulevards.
And Eli Broad told the Los Angeles Times this week that
a third City, which he declined to identify, is in the running.
“I want to caution you all and myself that this is
a very competitive process, not only in Santa Monica but
around town,” Council member Bobby Shriver said.
Shriver, as did all the council members in attendance (Mayor
Ken Genser was absent), said he was enthusiastic about the
possibility. But he pointed to some issues, including that
the City would be offering land at a low rent that is “worth
hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Also, Shriver wants the City to have some say in the selection
of an architect. He was also shaky about the City acquiring
the Barnard Way property containing much of the Foundation’s
collection for $6 million as part of the deal.
Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor said a deal with the Foundation
would be like a marriage that would not be a perfect union.
“I’m sure there are going to be bumps on the
road,” O’Connor said. “But the reality
is we need to work hard, and if we work hard what we can
create is a solid and enduring relationship.”
Numerous people spoke to the council with enthusiasm about
a museum. The speakers included persons from the arts, education
and business communities as well as ordinary residents.
“This will give us a great opportunity … for
our students to continue learning more about visual arts,”
said Sally Chou, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s
chief academic officer.
She continued, “Having the museum … in the
midst of our community is wonderful because the students
can actually get there either by walking or by the Big Blue