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From 2010: Private art collections go public

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Philanthropist and art collector Eli Broad died on April 30, 2021 at age 87. In this report originally broadcast on “Sunday Morning” January 17, 2010, correspondent Sandra Hughes talked with Broad about his efforts to bring more art to the public at museums in Los Angeles, and with other affluent collectors about the changing face of art philanthropy.

Video Transcript

ELI BROAD: This work was in the entry to our home until Michael wanted it here for the museum.

SANDRA HUGHES: For philanthropist, Eli Broad, charity truly begins at home, especially when it comes to his multimillion dollar art collection.

ELI BROAD: It started in the entry, and then Michael went to living room and bedroom, and we're missing a few things.

SANDRA HUGHES: Broad offered Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the choice of anything in Broad's collection. There were the paintings by Roy Lichtenstein--

ELI BROAD: And we all miss that painting.

SANDRA HUGHES: --Robert Rauschenberg--

ELI BROAD: Now, this was in the entry to our home also.

SANDRA HUGHES: --Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns.

So what was it like when you went into his home. I mean, is it like a kid in a candy store. I'll take that. I'll take that. I'll take that.

MICHAEL GOVAN: Well, it is a treasure trove, but I remember one of the first meetings when he said, well, just take what you want.

ELI BROAD: Whatever you want to show. We want to share with the public.

SANDRA HUGHES: Share and then some. Not long ago, Hollywood's glitterati turned out to celebrate with Eli Broad, who's already given away more than a billion dollars worth of his fortune, estimated at more than $5 billion. Not only is much of the art on the walls his, that's his name on the building. Its price tag, $56 million.

ELI BROAD: We're short of missionaries. We like having people look at contemporary art, learn about art of the times they live in.

SANDRA HUGHES: So committed is Eli Broad to his art-for-the-people epic that even in this shaky economy, he donated $30 million to keep another Los Angeles museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, out of bankruptcy. Across the country, the recessionary report card for museums is bleak. Donations to the arts have decreased by almost 10%. In a 2009 survey, 75% of museums nationwide said they were having to make do with less.

The Las Vegas Art Museum cut its budget 30%, but still had to close last year. The Art Institute of Chicago's endowment dropped 25%, so it had to double the price of admission to $18. And the Detroit Institute of Arts had to cut 20% of its staff. And giving isn't what it used to be, not even for Eli Broad, who shook up the art world when he decided to lend, not give, his collection to the LA County Museum of Art.

ELI BROAD: If I gave the museum 2,000 works of art, you know what they'd do? They'd put 95% of it in storage. So my attitude is we'll lend to museums on a permanent basis. As long as they want to show the art to the public, they could show it. If they want to put it in the basement, please return it, and we'd like to have someone else show it to the public.

SANDRA HUGHES: And Eli Broad is just one face in the changing universe of art philanthropy. With museums across the country feeling the financial pinch, collectors are finding new ways to bring art to the public. In Dallas, Marguerite Hoffman wasn't quite sure what to do with her growing collection of contemporary art. She had to build a second home just to hold it all. This is the house that your art built

MARGUERITE HOFFMAN: Yes. That's a good way to put it. We don't even, to this day, know how to refer to this particular space. Gallery seems way too pretentious.

SANDRA HUGHES: Whatever you call it, it is impressive. With her husband, Robert, who died of leukemia three years ago, together, they bought works by such celebrated artists as Andy Warhol, Franz Kline, and Gerhard Richter.

MARGUERITE HOFFMAN: Robert I thought of this as kind of a double self-portrait, and we had it at the foot of our bed for a long, long time. So I never look at that picture without thinking of our time together and our work together and what we wanted for the community.

SANDRA HUGHES: And what the Hoffman's wanted was for the people of Dallas to be able to see their art, but they also wanted to support their local museum.

MARGUERITE HOFFMAN: The only way you're ever going to take a museum to the next level, the only way you're going to take a regional museum and make it an aspiring national museum or a great national museum is if you get things in mass.

SANDRA HUGHES: So they asked another art-collecting couple, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, if they wanted to give a combined bequest.

MARGUERITE HOFFMAN: They came back to pick us up for dinner that night, and they said, we thought about it, and not only are we going to give our collection with you, but we'll give you our house too.

SANDRA HUGHES: It's an ultra modern house designed by Richard Meier, and it's filled with art. When another couple, also friends, Deedie and Rusty Rose, put their collection into the group, the total bequest to the Dallas Museum of Art was valued at over $400 million.

BONNIE PITTMAN: These are two works from the collection of Deedie and Rusty Rose.

SANDRA HUGHES: The museum's director, Bonnie Pittman, is helping the donors coordinate their giving.

BONNIE PITTMAN: When the gift was announced, we were flooded with inquiries from all over the United States and congratulations.

SANDRA HUGHES: But these tales of grand generosity are few and far between these days. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art announced in September it would be the recipient of the billion dollar Fisher collection, this, after Gap founder, Donald Fisher, passed away. But that was only after Fisher and his wife had lost their bid to build their own museum on San Francisco's historic Presidio. They faced a contentious public hearing in 2008.

- The Fisher museum is huge, large, out of place. It's an insult to the main post.

DORIS FISHER: This is a good location that's going to get a great building.

- It adds up to a stylish enclave of Bourgeois sensibilities, presuming sophisticated tastes. Yuck.

SANDRA HUGHES: Now, those sophisticated tastes will triple the size of the San Francisco Museum's exhibition space.

And then I look at this.

Back in Santa Monica, Eli Broad has yet another trick up his sleeve. He now wants to make a museum out of his foundation's collection, sharing yet more of his art with the public.

ELI BROAD: I mean, you can't have this in your living room, as a collector.

SANDRA HUGHES: Maybe in your living room, but not mine.

ELI BROAD: Not mine either, but look, this work has been shown in four countries.

SANDRA HUGHES: So what motivates all these donors? For Eli Broad, there is a vision for Los Angeles.

ELI BROAD: I want to make it the contemporary art capital of the world.

SANDRA HUGHES: Echoing Broad, the trust Donald Fisher created before he died will see his collections safely housed for at least the next 25 years in San Francisco, the city he loved.

MARGUERITE HOFFMAN: I really believe in public access to art.

SANDRA HUGHES: And for this group of donors in Dallas, there's the belief that collectors and museums can work together. Dallas Museum, director Bonnie Pittman.

BONNIE PITTMAN: So it is this huge commitment, civic commitment to make a great museum that is making a difference in Dallas.

SANDRA HUGHES: For the rest of us, we can just hope that museums find a way to stay afloat, while we have fun with the art. Height.