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How LACMA's New Benefactors are Revolutionizing Museum Curation

By Matt Stewart | July 23, 2018 | Culture

Will a new group of benefactors at LACMA change the way museums source and curate their world-class collections?

lacma.jpgThe exterior of the Resnick Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is opening up the museum’s curatorial process to the public.

As other museums in town continue to implement more populist approaches to their programming to drive a broader demographic into their venues, LACMA is going deep. LA art collectors and aficionados are now able to participate in the very growth of the museum’s world-class collection thanks to a unique group founded by LACMA trustees Allison Berg and Viveca Paulin-Ferrell and the museum’s CEO, Michael Govan. Contemporary@LACMA, an initiative that launched last fall with Berg, Paulin-Ferrell and a handful of newly minted members, meets with a group of curators who present a wide variety of works for their consideration. Recently, after in-depth discussions and a rigorous voting process, the new group celebrated, at a private dinner, the acquisition of four new pieces for LACMA’s permanent collection. This fall, the group will once again convene for this annual “rite d’art.“ “In one year, the Contemporary@LACMA group has already made a significant impact on the museum’s collection through the acquisition of four works by Latin American artists to strengthen the museum’s contemporary holdings in this field,” Govan says. “Contemporary@LACMA offers unique insights into the curatorial process and an insider perspective into the art world’s evolution.”

lacma-2.jpgAbraham Cruzvillegas, “Autoconcanción V” (2016), another one of the four permanent works chosen by Contemporary@LACMA

In the spirit of democracy (albeit with a little plutocracy thrown in), Contemporary@LACMA membership is open to any member of the public who is able to commit annually at one of two levels, with $10,000 members receiving two votes and $25,000 members receiving four. Members are also given access to a number of additional benefits, including invitations to exclusive art events both at LACMA and beyond, priority access to LACMA’s travel program and credentials to select art fairs, as well as recognition on LACMA’s donor wall. Response has been strong, and today the nearly 20-member committee consists of art lovers ranging in age from 30 to 60 who bring a wide-range Culturati Club of tastes and sensibilities to their work. “Contemporary@ LACMA is a group that allows its members to commit to the museum’s permanent collection in a personal way,” Berg shares. “One year in, we’ve expanded to include collectors and patrons from many varied backgrounds and perspectives, which reflects [our] core mission.” The synergy that the committee has created reinforces LACMA’s commitment to present a collection with a truly global perspective through the lens of LA’s unique diversity. “I’m constantly learning from this group,” says Paulin-Ferrell. “I hope Contemporary@LACMA keeps attracting new members who’ll add their own perspectives to the conversation, so that we can keep acquiring for the museum in a way that reflects Los Angeles now.” 5905 Wilshire Blvd.,