MOCA finances in the black

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Michael Caulfield/Getty Images for MOCA

Lady Gaga performs during the MOCA NEW 30th anniversary gala held at MOCA on November 14, 2009 in Los Angeles.

Two years ago the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles was in such bad financial shape its board raised the possibility of closing the world-renowned art institution. Museum officials say now that they’ve pushed their budget into the black.

MOCA ended the fiscal year with a $5.5 million surplus. Its current expenses, about $16 million, are nearly one-third less than in the previous year.

The museum’s interim executive slashed $9 million through staff layoffs, spending cuts and mounting less expensive art shows. Some of those exhibits showcased works from the museum’s permanent collection.

L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad may also take credit for the surplus. The billionaire swooped MOCA from the jaws of insolvency two years ago by pledging $30 million over time to get the museum back on its feet. The sour economy and less-than-prudent financial planning by the previous director had brought the museum to its knees.

MOCA officials say they raised $4 million from a gala last year that included Lady Gaga playing on a pink piano. New museum director Jeffrey Deitch wants to duplicate that success at next month’s gala. He’s hired L.A. artist Doug Aitken to create what the museum’s calling a “cultural ambush” of patrons’ senses with light, architecture, food and music.

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