On a recent Sunday, readers of the print Los Angeles Times and New York Times were confronted with full-page advertisements, bearing a dramatic illustration of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art appearing to sink into the sea. Text below the image describes the museum’s massive redevelopment project as “dysfunctional” and “unaffordable.”
LACMA is in the process of raising money for a controversial $650 million redevelopment of its Wilshire Boulevard campus that activists argue results in a significant loss of square footage. The new design, by architect Peter Zumthor, will span Wilshire Boulvard at Spaulding Avenue and has been described as both a blob and an amoeba by people opposed to the plan.
The ad says “Save LACMA” at the top and bottom, and sends readers to social media accounts with the handles @saveLACMA and @saveLACMAnow, so observers may have assumed the ads to be the work of Save LACMA, a citizens group that has been critical of the redevelopment. Except Save LACMA had nothing to do with them.
The ads were placed by a group calling itself the Citizen’s Brigade to Save LACMA. It’s unclear who is leading the group, but former Los Angeles architecture critic Greg Goldin and renowned architecture critic and occasional contributor Joseph Giovannini—have been associated with its efforts.
Sources from the newspapers’ respective sales departments estimate the cost on an ad buy like this to be at least $80,000, but no one associated with the group would confirm the cost; the money came from donors who wished to remain anonymous.
Neither LACMA nor director Michael Govan would comment directly on the ads or the competing advocacy groups, but the museum seems to be moving ahead confidently with the ambitious if controversial retrofit.
“There has been a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about LACMA’s campaign progress and our upcoming start of construction,” a representative from LACMA says. “We continue to receive messages of support from community members who are excited for the new building and the future of the museum.”
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