Los Angeles has several of the world’s great art collections. But they are not that close to each other. A drive from the Getty Villa to the Getty Center, UCLA Hammer Museum, LACMA, MOCA the Norton Simon Museum and the Huntington Library could take half a day. Today’s news that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is seriously discussing a merger with the Museum of Contemporary Art presents intriguing potential the create a museum with stellar world class permanent collections and more capabilities to organize and host traveling exhibitions.
A recent exhibition in San Diego can help to visualize the combination of collections. Called “Behold America!” it pooled works of art in the permanent collections of the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art with works from two traditional fine art museums, the Timken Museum and the San Diego Museum of Art. Having this much larger scale made it possible to group many works by style, period, medium or artist so that visitors could better appreciate aspects of the works of art that make them more distinctive.
Since the new Broad Art Foundation Museum featuring the contemporary art collection of Eli and Edith Broad will open in downtown Los Angles in 2014, more attention on contemporary art by LACMA may add to Los Angeles’ renown as a leading center for viewing contemporary art. LACMA is generally referred to as an encyclopedic museum. That is one that does not specialize in a particular type of art and provides the experience of seeing all different types of art in one location. It also has dedicated pavilions for both Japanese and Korean art, making it unique among American museums.
Another major encyclopedic museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, has recently expanded its exhibitions focused on contemporary art. It constructed a large annex linked by an interior bridge to feature American and European modern art. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is beginning a major expansion of 225,000 square feet to double the size of its exhibition areas. At the same time, Chicago, San Francisco an the MOCA collections in Los Angeles have not come close to the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Following the construction of the MOMA tower a decade ago, MOMA grew to 630,000 square fee of exhibition space and has been able to increase its exhibition and education programs on a similar scale.