LACMA’s cast­ing call

The mu­seum turns to the city’s en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try to bring new life to its board of trustees

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By David Ng

The guest list for the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art’s 50th an­niver­sary gala Satur­day night might eas­ily be mis­taken for that of a Hol­ly­wood awards show.

Stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives Robert Iger of Walt Dis­ney Co., Michael Lyn­ton of Sony Pic­tures and Brad Grey of Para­mount Pic­tures are on the list, along with en­ter­tain­ers Will Fer­rell, Marisa Tomei and Dustin Hoffman.

It gets even glitzier for the mu­seum’s Art + Film Gala, an an­nual bash launched in 2011. Leonardo DiCaprio co-chairs the event, and last year’s guests in­cluded Jamie Foxx, Amy Adams and, of course, Kanye West and Kim Kar­dashian.

Once a bas­tion of old money, LACMA has be­come a dar­ling of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. More than a third of its 53 trustees have ties to show­biz or me­dia. The new Academy Mu­seum of Mo­tion Pic­tures, once planned for Hol­ly­wood, is now set to be built on LACMA’s Mir­a­cle Mile cam­pus.

The Hol­ly­wood-LACMA con­nec­tion was no ac­ci­dent. About a decade ago, the mu­seum’s lead­ers de­cided the re­gion’s sig­na­ture in­dus­try should play a big­ger part in the re­gion’s cul­tural life. The board be­gan re­cruit­ing more young en­ter­tain­ment fig­ures as trustees.

“There was an un­der­stand­ing — the mes­sage was there needed to be a change in the board,” mu­seum direc­tor Michael Go­van re­called. “The board was in ex­treme need of re­fresh­ment.”

For decades Hol­ly­wood has been crit­i­cized for not be­ing par­tic­u­larly gen­er­ous to lo­cal arts in­sti­tu­tions, while at the same time the pil­lars of Los An­ge­les so­ci­ety of­ten looked down at the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try as in­ter­lop­ers.

Hol­ly­wood’s em­brace of the L.A. County Mu­seum of Art hasn’t hurt the in­dus­try’s im­age.

“I think the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try gets a lot of pub­lic­ity, and it doesn’t hurt,” said Lyn­ton, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Sony Pic­tures En­ter­tain­ment, who joined the LACMA board in 2007.

“But the busi­ness of the mu­seum has re­mained se­ri­ous — it hasn’t been over­taken by glitz,” he added.

Lynda Res­nick, a trustee since 1992, said the mu­seum has “to­tally mor­phed into a dif­fer­ent place. In­sti­tu­tions are like peo­ple; they have life cy­cles. But un­like peo­ple, they can be re­born.”

LACMA’s re­birth is the re­sult of a con­scious de­ci­sion made about a decade ago by long­time mu­seum sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Eli Broad and the late Nancy Daly, to re­ju­ve­nate a board that to some had be­come com­pla­cent.

Casey Wasser­man, an en­ter­tain­ment ex­ec­u­tive and grand­son of Hol­ly­wood mogul Lew Wasser­man, was in his early 30s when he be­came a trustee in 2004. Bobby Kotick, who heads the video game gi­ant Ac­tivi­sion Bl­iz­zard, was in his early 40s when he joined the mu­seum around the same time.

Two-thirds of all cur­rent LACMA trustees joined the mu­seum in the last 10 years, in­creas­ing the board’s size by nearly 20%. The mu­seum said it has a cap of 60 trustees.

Many art mu­se­ums across the coun­try are ex­pand­ing their boards partly in re­sponse to the most re­cent re­ces­sion, ac­cord­ing to David H. King, pres­i­dent and CEO of Alexander Haas, a fundrais­ing con­sult­ing com­pany.

“All mu­se­ums had to look at what they were do­ing,” he said. “Many found that they had tapped all the con­nec­tions they had. En­larg­ing the board gives them ac­cess to new sources of fund­ing.”

In­sti­tu­tions un­der­go­ing large changes — LACMA is ex­pected to break ground on its new build­ing in three years — tend to grow their boards as a way of build­ing lo­cal sup­port, said Bruce Thi­bodeau, pres­i­dent of Arts Con­sult­ing Group in L.A.

“It can also be a gen­er­a­tional thing. Some­times the descen­dants [of tra­di­tional phi­lan­thropists] don’t have the same in­ter­ests, and new lead­ers step for­ward,” he said.

With membership come six-fig­ure re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. LACMA trustees are each ex­pected to con­trib­ute $100,000 per year, an amount that is more a floor than a ceil­ing. Trustees col­lec­tively give about $14 mil­lion to $15 mil­lion each year, not in­clud­ing cam­paign gifts, said LACMA of­fi­cials.

That’s still rel­a­tively cheap com­pared with New York, where board membership for top cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions can come with a price tag that ex­ceeds $1 mil­lion.

“The age of the city re­ally does have a lot to do with what the cul­ture asks of you,” said Bryan Lourd, part­ner and man­ag­ing direc­tor at Cre­ative Artists Agency and a LACMA trustee for four years.

He also holds board po­si­tions at Lin­coln Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in New York and the Kennedy Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton.

“That be­ing said, I’ve never seen a more ex­cit­ing mo­ment for [L.A.]. It’s a com­plete boom­town in that way, and it’s rec­og­nized in D.C. and New York that that is hap­pen­ing here.”

At LACMA, trustees are cur­rently fo­cused on fi­nanc­ing and com­plet­ing a ma­jor re­con­struc­tion that calls for raz­ing build­ings fin­ished in 1965 and con­struct­ing a new $650-mil­lion build­ing de­signed by Peter Zumthor. That project is sched­uled for com­ple­tion in 2023.

Separately, the Mo­tion Pic­ture Academy hopes to com­plete its $300-mil­lion mu­seum in the for­mer May Co. build­ing on the LACMA cam­pus in 2018.

LACMA trustees will be ex­pected to play a big role in fundrais­ing for the Zumthor project, for which the county has al­ready com­mit­ted $125 mil­lion.

“We’re see­ing a huge amount of sup­port from the board,” said An­drew Bran­don-Gor­don, board co-chair and a part­ner at Gold­man Sachs, where his clients in­clude me­dia and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies.

He said the mu­seum is cur­rently in the quiet phase of fundrais­ing, adding that a public phase is ex­pected to launch later this year or in 2016.

Bran­don-Gor­don cochairs the LACMA board with Terry Semel, a for­mer Warner Bros. and Ya­hoo ex­ec­u­tive.

LACMA’s lo­ca­tion in the Mir­a­cle Mile also makes it ge­o­graph­i­cally cor­rect for the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, much of which is in that area and nearby Cen­tury City.

“I drive by the mu­seum ev­ery day to work,” noted Ryan Seacrest, the ra­dio per­son­al­ity, TV pro­ducer and “Amer­i­can Idol” host, whose of­fices are just a short walk away. He be­came a trustee last year.

In many ways, Seacrest, 40, is em­blem­atic of the LACMA board’s new di­rec­tion — high en­ergy, plugged into Hol­ly­wood and younger than the mu­seum it­self.

At the same time, he takes the vis­ual arts se­ri­ously, even if he ad­mits that he’s still a neo­phyte.

“I was thought­ful about my de­ci­sion [to join the board] and the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­volved,” he said. “There are some amazingly ac­com­plished peo­ple nav­i­gat­ing that ship.”

Trustees meet four or five times a year, though com­mit­tees tend to con­vene more of­ten. Many trustees par­tic­i­pate in the col­lec­tors com­mit­tee, which over­sees art ac­qui­si­tions for LACMA.

Trustee Steve Tisch, an Os­car-win­ning pro­ducer of “Forrest Gump” and coowner of the New York Gi­ants foot­ball team, has bought sev­eral movi­ethemed and video pieces for the mu­seum, in­clud­ing Chris­tian Mar­clay’s 24-hour video “The Clock.”

“I’ve carved out a lit­tle niche at LACMA for video pieces — it’s a very ex­cit­ing art form,” said Tisch, who be­came a trustee in 2010.

“It’s young and new, but it dove­tails with what the mu­seum is do­ing,” he added. “It’s video. It’s L.A. It’s Hol­ly­wood.”

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

ABOUT A DECADE AGO, the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art’s lead­er­ship thought Hol­ly­wood should play a big­ger role in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s cul­tural life and re­cruited more show­biz fig­ures.

Donato Sardella Getty Images for LACMA

LACMA DIREC­TOR Michael Go­van, left; Andy Bran­don-Gor­don, a part­ner at Gold­man Sachs and mu­seum board co-chair; and Ryan Seacrest, a TV per­son­al­ity and re­cently minted mu­seum board trustee, at­tend the 2014 LACMA Art + Film Gala.

Ste­fanie Keenan Getty Images for LACMA

PRO­DUCER JERRY BRUCK­HEIMER, left, and ac­tors Salma Hayek, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx at­tend the 2014 LACMA Art + Film Gala in Novem­ber at the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art.

Ate­lier Peter Zumthor & Part­ner

LACMA TRUSTEES are cur­rently fo­cused on fi­nanc­ing a ma­jor re­con­struc­tion that will re­sult in a new $650-mil­lion build­ing de­signed by Peter Zumthor.

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