Could L.A.’s Museum Troubles Come to New York?

As New York’s museums warily eye the less-prosperous future, the news from Los Angeles is considerably worse.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) was publicly embarrassed yesterday by billionaire-philanthropist-art-pharaoh Eli Broad. The 75-year-old Broad announced–all previous public statements to the contrary–his plans to build a 25,000 square foot art museum to house his and his wife Edythe’s vast collection of postwar and contemporary art.

This is the second time Broad has stiffed LACMA. In January, the museum opened the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), a $56 million dollar contemporary art building. Broad had largely financed the building, and LACMA hoped, as these things go, that Broad would celebrate the occasion with a gift to the museum.

This was not to be. Shortly after BCAM opened, Broad announced he had a different idea: to loan his art collection to a number of museums, LACMA included. This was not meant to be. Los Angeles will now be graced by two contemporary art museums with Broad’s name over the door. An architect hasn’t been chosen yet, nor a location, although one of the spots Broad is reportedly considering is situated next to the La Brea tar pits. That may be a metaphor, or something. There is also no word yet if Broad plans to be buried in his museum.

Over the years New York has been incalculably enriched by the tastes of a few single zillionaires (Frick, Whitney, Guggenheim), a couple of whom were, frankly, awful. How would a similar scene play out in New York?

I’ll venture a guess: Donald Trump, having loaned his large collection of Boteros for a show at the Guggenheim (‘Fat Bottom Girls’: The Donald J. Trump Collection), declines to make a gift. Instead, Trump, perhaps with Broad in mind, retrofits an Atlantic City casino boat, launches the boat on the East River and declares it ‘The Worlds Finest in Floating Art Connoisseurship.’

Could L.A.’s Museum Troubles Come to New York?