Billionaire Broad chooses downtown LA site for art museum

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Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

Ending speculation, Eli Broad announced on August 23, 2010 that he will build a $100 million museum to house his contemporary art collection on Grand Avenue in downtown L.A.

Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad announced today that he’ll build a $100 million museum to house his art collection on Grand Avenue. Broad’s statement ends speculation that he’d locate it in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills.

In the end, Broad told the five members of the Grand Avenue Authority after they approved his proposal that his decision hinged on location. "The Museum of Contemporary Art, the Colburn School of Music, the new high school for the visual and performing arts, that’s a critical mass. And I think the center of the arts and the civic district is clearly on Grand Avenue," Broad said.

Broad, 77, made his billions building homes and selling financial services. He’s spent millions of dollars amassing a 2,000-piece art collection that consists mostly of works from the 1980s and 1990s by artists such as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.

"I’d be much more in favor of a museum that showed interesting Los Angeles art that’s being produced now rather than in the Blue Chip 90s," said Mat Gleason, the editor of Coagula Art Journal. "This is the equivalent of a condo conversion, he’s making his own museum now to maintain the inflated value in these big name artists as they slowly and permanently deflate," Gleason said.

Broad co-founded L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art 31 years ago. Two years ago he paid for construction of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the L.A. County Museum of Art campus. The philanthropist responded to Gleason’s and others’ description of his next big project as an ego museum. "They can call it whatever they want but it’s for the public," Broad said.

Broad predicts that people will flock to it when it opens in about two years. To that end he’s hired avant-garde New York City architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, to produce a design that’ll rival Disney Hall next door and Our Lady of Angels Cathedral two blocks away.

Under the deal, Broad will finance construction of the $80-million to $100-million museum and contribute $200 million toward its operation. He will pay $7.7 million over the course of the 99-year-lease. That money is planned to go to affordable housing.

Broad said he hopes the museum will jump start development in downtown L.A.

"We believe Grand Avenue is really the cultural and civic center of a region of 15 million people," Broad said today on AirTalk.

He said his collection will not compete with the Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses different collections.

KPCC wire services contributed to this report.

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