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Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles
art museum in Los Angeles, California
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Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles
art museum in Los Angeles, California
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250 S Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, California
United States

cschuster's picture

Sr. Contributor

Progressive museum that can barely stay solvent, with a lot of 'firsts' to its credit. 

MOCA was the OG contemporary art museum in Los Angeles. If you're looking for art from before World War II, go somewhere else. Not that you should go somewhere else. Especially if you like your art collections to push boundaries. It's a brave museum. MOCA put on the first major exhibition of graffiti and street art when everyone else was scratching their heads about how to talk about the subject. The museum also makes it priority to bridge the gap between female and male voices in museums. If you aren't down with the patriarchy, then MOCA might just be the place for you.

The building itself has been a fixture in LA for decades. Fixture in the "object that's around that we don't think about" sense rather than something cherished. Before housing some of the best contemporary art this side of the Mississippi, the space was a basic retail spot, and then storage for LAPD squad cars. The kind of place where people named Vince or Hank grow mustaches and spill coffee on themselves (i.e., not the kind of place you want to be). Now, this Little Tokyo warehouse is a semi-subterranean lair for all your contemporary art needs and wants.

The 2008 economic downturn almost killed MOCA Los Angeles. The museum's annual operating budget of $20 million is 80% philanthropy from private individuals. After donors derailed the gravy train, MOCA was forced to dip into its savings and even borrow against restricted funds to make ends meet for daily operations. Drama ensued after art collector Eli Broad injected $30 million into the museum, followed by a turnover in leadership with New York art gallery guru Jeffrey Dietsch taking the helm. This was Dietsch's first experience with museum work, and his 'run it like a business' style soured MOCA's relation with longtime curator Paul Schimmel. 

After Schimmel's exit (either forced or voluntary depending on the source), artists like John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha quit the MOCA's board in protest. The museum went into a tailspin. Months of uncertainty lead to MOCA offering a merger with frenemy LACMA. The county-funded museum tried to move forward with the idea. However, MOMA met a $100 million endowment funding goal when Dietsch departed and new leadership took over. So now they're still independent...but for how long is anyone's guess.

melliot's picture

Contributor

Look at this photograph of MOCA. What you don’t realize is that all the galleries are below street level. As soon as I descended the stairs to the entrance, I felt uncomfortable. The galleries are dimly lit. Are they trying to protect the art or save money? And the spaces are low-ceilinged, cave-like.

I lived in Los Angeles for 20 years. I have experienced one too many earthquakes. I now hate being underground, especially in Los Angeles!

I thought the art might cheer me up, but it didn’t. I know MOCA has been embroiled in more than a few administrative scandals. So, as I checked out the exhibitions, I wondered who is acquiring the art -- and why.
Whenever I go to a museum, I love reading wall labels. I learn tidbits of information about the artist and/or the artwork. MOCA's labels, however, are really dull. I appreciate that I could use my phone for more information, but what I heard was art speak. Boring!

A few juicy tidbits:
• Bookstore -- thankfully above ground -- features a great selection of every kind of esoteric art magazine and nifty toys.
• Ultra cool logo – Google colors – too bad the website is so blah.
• Great café – good food made up for the bad art -- mostly outdoor seating (What do they do when it rains? Oh yeah, it's LA.)
• Cool airplane sculpture made from 1000’s of airplane parts by Nancy Rubins in the courtyard.
• Bonus: from the MOCA entrance you can see the astounding Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry located less than a block away.

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) is a contemporary art museum with three locations in greater Los Angeles, California. The main branch is located on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, near the Walt Disney Concert Hall. MOCA's original space, initially intended as a "temporary" exhibit space while the main facility was built, is now known as the Geffen Contemporary, in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles. The Pacific Design Center facility is in West Hollywood.

The museum's exhibits consist primarily of American and European contemporary art created after 1940. Since the museum's inception, MOCA's programming has been defined by its multi-disciplinary approach to contemporary art.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.