In a Historic Gift, David Geffen Pledges $150 Million to LACMA

Meanwhile, Lincoln Center has canceled its plans for a $500 million renovation of Geffen Hall.

Peter Zumthor's new LACMA design. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.
Peter Zumthor's new LACMA design. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

Billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen is donating $150 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)—the single largest cash gift in the institution’s history—as it prepares to break ground on a new building designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.

“At a time when federal funding for the arts is threatened, it’s important that we foster public-private partnerships, like this one, to support arts and cultural institutions,” said Geffen in a statement. “I am proud to partner with the county and other members of the community in helping LACMA move this remarkable project from vision to reality. Together, we can and must make sure every person has access to the arts.”

The news comes less than 24 hours after the announcement that New York’s Lincoln Center is cancelling its $500 million gut renovation, a project to which Geffen had pledged $100 million in 2015. The auditorium, home to the New York Philharmonic, permanently changed its name from Avery Fisher Hall to David Geffen Hall in his honor. Construction was slated to start in 2019.

Geffen won the naming rights to Avery Fisher Hall (right) as part of his $100 million pledge in 2015. Photo: Nils Olander via Wikimedia Commons

According to the New York Times, the Philharmonic has been in need of an improved venue since 1999. Plans to completely redo the interior of the 1962 Max Abramovitz-designed building involved moving the second-floor concert hall to the street level, improving acoustics as well as the flow of the much-maligned venue. When architects couldn’t promise to get the work done in just two seasons, new leadership at both Lincoln Center and the Philharmonic opted to pull the plug.

“There was a general sense that the project had just gotten too complicated,” new Lincoln Center president Debora L. Spar told the Times, insisting that Geffen was “on board” to instead take a less dramatic approach, working in phases to gradually overhaul the auditorium.

Geffen also pledged $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2016 for its ambitious expansion project. The first phase of the work was unveiled in June.

David Geffen. Courtesy of LACMA/photographer Bruce Weber.

David Geffen. Photo by Bruce Weber, courtesy of LACMA.

Geffen’s pledge outstrips that of art collector and museum co-chair Elaine Wynn and Los Angeles billionaire collector A. Jerrold Perenchio, who in 2016 announced a joint gift of $75 million to be put toward the expansion project. At the time, no cultural institution in the city had ever received a more generous donation.

In honor of the most recent gift, the new building, set to open in 2023 with construction beginning in 2019, will be called the David Geffen Galleries. Including Geffen’s gift, the Building LACMA campaign has raised $450 million of the projected $650 million needed for the project. In addition to the donations from Wynn, Perenchio, and Geffen, the museum has also received $125 million from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Peter Zumthor's new LACMA design extends over the street to a museum parking lot. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

Peter Zumthor’s new LACMA design extends over the street to a museum parking lot. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

“That this watershed gift is happening in Los Angeles is a testament, not just to LACMA, but to all of Los Angeles as a cultural center,” museum director Michael Govan told the Los Angeles Times. “This is a public-private partnership of extraordinary dimension.”

Zumthor’s plan, which was previously revamped to avoid impacting the nearby La Brea Tar Pits, replaces four of the museum’s seven existing buildings and crosses a road into what is now a museum parking lot. The museum is simultaneously planning an overhaul of a former bus storage yard in South Los Angeles to create a satellite campus.

See more renderings of LACMA’s new building below.

Peter Zumthor's new LACMA design. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

Peter Zumthor’s new LACMA design. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

Peter Zumthor's new LACMA design. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

Peter Zumthor’s new LACMA design. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

Peter Zumthor's new LACMA design. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.

Peter Zumthor’s new LACMA design. Courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor.


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