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Eli Broad plans new art museum in Beverly Hills

By Carol Eisenberg

November 18, 2008 at 12:27pm

Apparently, a billionaire has the prerogative to change his mind.

Only months after the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened a much-ballyhooed, new wing - named the Broad Contemporary Art Museum after its chief benefactor Eli Broad - the billionaire art collector is making plans to open another museum just a few miles away.

That is just the latest slap to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where Broad, the retired tract-home king, donated the $56-million cost of the new wing and also serves as a trustee. A month before the Broad Contemporary Art Museum opened last February, however, Broad stunned LACMA by announcing he would not donate his art to it after all.

Instead, he said he would create an independent foundation that would loan his collection to museums around the world. That collection of some 2,000 works of modern art is considered one of the most sought-after in the world, including pieces by Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha.

“We don’t want it to end up in storage, in either our basement or somebody else’s basement,” Broad told the New York Times.

Now comes a report from Bloomberg News that the collector and philanthropist already considered one of the most powerful players in the international art world, is planning a museum of his own. Besides being a trustee of LACMA, Broad is a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Expected to open within three years, the new museum would house art currently housed across the Los Angeles region, said Joanne Heyler, director and chief curator of the Broad Art Foundation. The leading site is near the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards.

Heyler said the project won’t interfere with the foundation’s ability to purchase art and loan out the collection.

“The Broads have had a longstanding commitment that contemporary art works in their collection are seen by the broadest audience.”

They also have extraordinarily deep pockets. Broad was spied at a Sotheby’s auction in New York last week, buying more than $8 million worth of art by Koons, Ruscha, Donald Judd and Robert Rauschenberg in what he called a “half-price sale.”

The son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who grew up in Detroit, Broad founded Los Angeles-based KB Home, formerly known as Kaufman & Broad, with Donald Kaufman in 1957. He later founded retirement-fund company SunAmerica Inc., now part of American International Group Inc.

His fortune is valued by Forbes magazine at $6.7 billion, making him the 48th richest person in the U.S.

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