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Portrait of Eli Broad by Luca Vignelli
Portrait of Eli Broad by Luca Vignelli

MOCA Remembers Eli Broad

May 25 2021

Rarely has an individual transformed the culture of an American city as has Eli Broad. A fierce champion of Los Angeles, Broad was an unmatched philanthropist and cornerstone community leader whose passion for contemporary art was rooted in the ideal that the finest art in the world is meant to be shared with the public—in our city and across the country.

As a founding Board Chairman and Trustee, Broad helped to spearhead, along with Marcia Weisman, Joel Wachs, Sam Francis, Robert Irwin, and several other collectors and artists, a campaign to establish a contemporary art museum for Los Angeles. They raised $13million—including $1million from Eli and Edythe Broad—for the launch of MOCA, opening in 1979 as L.A.’s only publicly supported collecting museum devoted exclusively to contemporary art. With a vision of a vibrant cultural center downtown, Broad helped lay the groundwork for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year to experience the work of some of today’s most influential artists. Visitors to MOCA’s flagship location on Grand Avenue are welcomed in the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Lobby. He once described MOCA as “one of the cultural and architectural jewels on Grand Avenue,” declaring that its prominence had catapulted L.A. to be the “contemporary-art capital of the world.

Broad championed ambitious efforts to anchor MOCA’s place on the world stage as one of the most significant public collections of contemporary art. Broad played a key role in the purchase of 80 abstract expressionist and pop art works from Italian businessman Count Giuseppe and Mrs. Giovanna Panza di Buomo in 1984. The family desired that their collection, which contained deep holdings of artists such as Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, Antoni Tapies, and Claes Oldenburg, be acquired by a public institution, intact, so that it could be widely accessible. In turn, this momentous acquisition in the early days would inspire numerous other benefactors to form long relationships with the museum, contributing to MOCA’s extraordinary “collection of collections.”

A deeply committed art collector and advocate, Broad was an active member of MOCA’s Acquisitions & Collections Committee for many years. He gifted, and helped MOCA obtain, 20 works of art by 16 artists, including John Baldessari, Bill Jensen, Louise Lawler, Manny Farber, Chris Offili, Sherri Levine, and Roni Horn, among others. Among other noteworthy acquisitions made with Broad funding are Chris Burden’s 28-foot New York bridge reconstruction, Hell Gate (1998/99) and Francesco Vezzoli’s large-scale image Crying Portrait of Tatjana Patitz as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (After Raffaello) (2010).

As premier patrons, the Broads have invested over $45 million through the years to strengthen MOCA’s long-term independence, with major support at critical junctures. A wide range of exhibitions have been realized through the Broads’ generosity to MOCA. Funding from The Broad Art Foundation and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation was directed toward projects including Barbara Kruger (2000); Andy Warhol Retrospective (2002); Basquiat (2005); WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007); Collecting Collections: Highlights from the Permanent Collection (2008); Doug Aitken: Electric Earth (2016); and the forthcoming exhibition Pipilotti Rist: Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor (2021), as well as special presentations of work by Sam Francis, Richard Meier, Charles Ray, Richard Serra, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Jonas Wood.

MOCA is indebted to Eli Broad for his fervent dedication to placing contemporary art at the heart of civic life in Los Angeles. His legacy is woven throughout the museum and will forever be instrumental to its success.