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Originally published Friday, March 8, 2013 at 10:13 AM

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Los Angeles art museums may merge

The financially struggling Museum of Contemporary Art could merge with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. .

Associated Press

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is proposing a merger with the city’s financially troubled Museum of Contemporary Art, a move officials say could ensure MOCA’s continued existence while transforming LA into a world-class hub for contemporary art.

The Los Angeles County museum’s director, Michael Govan, says the possibility of a merger was first raised by MOCA officials and that LACMA has responded with a formal proposal.

The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the proposal Thursday, said it was made in a Feb. 24 letter delivered to the leaders of MOCA’s board and contains a promise to raise $100 million to benefit the museum.

A MOCA official did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

The museum, with two downtown campuses, was in danger of going under five years ago when billionaire financier Eli Broad bailed it out with $30 million.

“Like so many others in the art world, we appreciate the impact MOCA has had, both on Los Angeles and on the world stage,” Govan and LACMA director Wallis Annenberg said in a statement. “Our chief desire is to see MOCA’s program continue and to serve the many artists and other Angelenos, for whom MOCA means so much.”

The museum’s downtown campus has hosted popular exhibitions on Andy Warhol, prominent American comic book artists and many others over the years. Its nearby Geffen Contemporary campus was host to a popular 2011 exhibition of graffiti art that featured the works of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Chaz Bojorquez and others.

Last year, the museum also became caught up in an art-world controversy when it fired its popular chief curator, Paul Schimmel. Four board members immediately resigned, among them prominent pop artist Ed Ruscha.

LACMA’s statement praised MOCA as being “key to establishing Los Angeles as a world power in contemporary art,” and said a merger would benefit both museums.

“Today LA may be home to the most important concentration of contemporary artists in the world,” LACMA said. “Only time will tell, but with proper patronage and institutional focus, we could be living in a great time and place for art to be made — like New York in the 1950s and 60s, Paris or Vienna around the turn of the 20th century or even the cities of the Italian Renaissance.”

LACMA, located west of downtown, houses more than 120,000 works of art, including many of its own major contemporary pieces.

Among them are Chris Burden’s Urban Light, which illuminates an entire city block in front of the museum at night, and Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, which anchors the parklike area behind the museum. The latter work gained international attention last year when it took nearly two weeks to haul the 340-ton boulder that is its centerpiece to the museum from a quarry 105 miles away.

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