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Surprise Name on Bill at BCAM

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

A new name is going up at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's soon-to-open Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

LACMA trustee Jane Nathanson and her husband, communication and investment mogul Marc Nathanson, will have a ground-floor gallery in the building named for them in recognition of a $10-million gift to the museum to be announced today. The donation is earmarked for contemporary art programs and acquisitions.

"It's going to be one of the best spaces in the world to show contemporary art. It's perfection," Jane Nathanson said of BCAM, as the Broad building is being called. "I'm a museum rat. I travel all around the world just to go to museums and art shows. We are so impressed with this building that it is where we chose to name a major gallery."

Putting donors' names on art galleries is not new at American museums, and LACMA has its share of galleries honoring collectors and supporters, such as Edward and Hannah Carter, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, and Steve Martin. But the practice might not be expected at the edifice so strongly identified with philanthropist and collector Eli Broad, who paid for the $56-million structure (to be unveiled Feb. 16), provided a $10-million fund for the acquisition of artworks and lent 220 pieces to the inaugural exhibition.

Michael Govan, director of LACMA, said that naming galleries at BCAM was not a given.

"Eli's gift was so large that it was at his discretion," said the director, who took charge of LACMA early in 2006 after the Broad building was underway. "He wants us to have the freedom to attract other donors. He told me from Day One to go out and get gifts, get the community involved. This is a sign that he wants the museum to be public."

Galleries at LACMA do not have specific price tags in terms of money or art, Govan said. "We are raising money to fuel the museum's growth and endowment. Once you settle on what people think they can give, you come up with appropriate recognition. The Nathansons wanted to be recognized at the Broad building."

Govan characterized the couple's gift as "another example of the sort of power the community has to offer. These are people who are major collectors, civically minded, involved in museums. They are an incredible credit to Los Angeles."

The Nathansons -- whose Los Angeles home is filled with contemporary art collected over the last 40 years, including major works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, George Segal, Barbara Kruger and Jennifer Steinkamp -- support many of the city's arts and educational institutions. Jane, a psychologist who is organizing BCAM's opening gala fundraiser, often plays a similar role at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, where she is also a trustee and, with her husband, underwrote MOCA's upcoming exhibition "Collecting Collections." Marc is a member of boards at UCLA, USC and the L.A. Philharmonic.

Their gift to LACMA was negotiated some time ago, but the announcement comes after news that Broad plans to keep his collection in a foundation that functions as a lending library, instead of giving the works to museums, as he had planned to do for many years.

Although he never promised additional art gifts and museum officials say the change of strategy was not a surprise, his involvement with LACMA, where he is also a trustee, raised hopes that the cream of the collection would eventually go there. Under the current arrangement, LACMA can borrow up to 200 works from the foundation's 2,000-piece holdings at any given time during Broad's lifetime.

A statement released last week by Broad said: "We believe that LACMA is a great 21st century encyclopedic museum, and as a result, LACMA is our key partner and favored institution in showing works from our collections."

The controversy that erupted over Broad's change of plans is a sensitive issue for the Nathansons, who say they intend to give most of their collection to LACMA and MOCA but are not ready to make that commitment.

"No good deed goes unpunished," Jane Nathanson said. "Eli is one of the great philanthropists in this city. I think it is unfortunate that the lending foundation was made to seem as if it is a negative for LACMA, which it is not. We are more than thrilled that Eli stepped forward and underwrote the Broad Contemporary Art Museum when not too many people were stepping forward.

"The Broad Contemporary Art Museum gives LACMA space where good contemporary shows will take place and people will begin to give their collections. I would not be at all surprised in the future if Eli gives some of his."

Marc Nathanson said he is equally excited about what's going on at LACMA, although Jane is playing their family's lead role at the Wilshire Boulevard institution.

"I think it's a whole renaissance for the museum and Los Angeles," he said. "Los Angeles has lost many Fortune 500 headquarters. We rely on entrepreneurs and philanthropy. We need to encourage them, not discourage them, because we don't have the Arcos and the Security Pacific Banks that were very supportive of the arts in their time."
By Suzanne Muchnic
For The Los Angeles Times

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