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Dearest Eli Broad 2008
Copyright © 2008 by Guerrilla Girls


The new Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was paid for with 50 million bucks from the munificent LA businessman and art collector Eli Broad. And the first show is a selection of art from his own private collection. How exciting!

Wait a minute…. Broad, the philanthropist, claims that "public education is the key civil rights issue of the 21st century," but his art collection is a lesson in discrimination and exclusion. How can this exhibition be a legitimate survey of contemporary art with so few women and artists of color? Especially in Los Angeles! And at a public museum like LACMA!

Here are the stats:

BCAM, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA:
30 artists, 97% white, 87% male

Broad Foundation collection:
194 artists, 96% white, 83% male

Help us put lots of letters on Eli’s desk! Use ours or write your own, then email Eli Broad <curator@broadartfoundation.org>
or snail mail Eli at the Broad Art Foundation, 3355 Barnard Way, Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Dear Guerrilla Girls:

Thank you for your email. I’d like to respond with some history and insight into the development of the Broad Collections, which I have curated since 1995. Women artists are prominently featured in the inaugural installation at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), which was curated by LACMA. 33% of the works in the exhibit are by women, placed in particularly powerful positions. A 3-story-tall text piece by Barbara Kruger confronts visitors upon entering the building. One of BCAM’s largest galleries is devoted to Cindy Sherman, whose works the Broads have collected in tremendous depth since 1981. Jenny Holzer’s Under a Rock occupies a likewise prominent position on the second floor.

As to the presence of women and artists of color in the collection of The Broad Art Foundation, our trend has been to deliberately and steadily reflect diversity.

Since 1995, of the 43 new artists added to The Broad Art Foundation’s collection, 14 (33%) are women, and nine of those are collected in depth. In the first six weeks of 2008, our collection has added one work (our second) by African American artist Mark Bradford, our first acquisition by African artist El Anatsui, and our first work by female artist Diana Thater. In terms of exhibition funding, we are a major funder of the public art project currently running in sites throughout Los Angeles, “Women in the City,” which features the work of four women artists. We are also a presenting sponsor of the exhibition of the provocative work of African American artist Kara Walker, titled “Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love,” opening March 2 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Artwork with a strong social and political perspective has always been important to the Broads and to their collecting. As long ago as 1991, the San Jose Museum of Art organized an exhibition called “Compassion and Protest: Recent Social and Political Art from the Eli Broad Family Foundation Collection,” in response to the “wealth of politically charged work” the museum found when studying our collection – even 17 years ago. Many artists in our collection at that time made provocative, tough artwork addressing racism, gender biases and other forms of discrimination that more conservative collections would shun. These artists included John Ahearn, Sue Coe, Leon Golub, Cindy Sherman, David Wojnarowicz, and others.

The art world is gradually diversifying, reflecting the consistent quality and unquestionable importance of work by women artists and artists of all ethnicities. Likewise, artists of diverse backgrounds are entering the Broad Collections. I, as Chief Curator and Director of The Broad Art Foundation, am proud of this trend and intend to continue it.

Sincerely, Joanne Heyler Director and
Chief Curator, The Broad Art Foundation
Dear Joanne:

Look, we know it’s hard to reverse centuries of discrimination. It’s good to hear that since 1995 the Broad Collection has become a bit more diverse, and we are hoping that our cage rattling will inspire you to do much, much more. The problem is that LACMA is a public museum that wants to educate a culturally diverse population—it’s right in the museum’s mission statement. To open such an important project like BCAM with a show that is so white (97%) and so male (87%) gives the impression that the contemporary art world is not diverse, and that the government of L.A. county and the trustees of the museum don’t care, or are asleep at the wheel.

What set us off was the BCAM wall panels, proclaiming “the Broads’ goal has been to make Los Angeles nothing less than the contemporary art capital of the world.” With such a narrow selection, what message does the show send to artists who are Asian, Latino, African-American and/or women, or to the thousands of students who visit the museum?

Also, it’s misleading to count all 49 of Cindy Sherman’s photographs to prop up the percentage of work by women in the show when there are only 4 women out of 30 artists. Women have been graduating from art schools in the same number or greater than men for decades. Why not work with the Broad Education Foundation to find out what happens to them in the art market? And exhibiting only one artist of color is really disgraceful.

By the way, the Tate Modern and the Museum of Modern Art have publicly admitted that they haven’t collected enough work by women, and vowed to do better. Maybe it’s time for Eli and Edythe Broad to do the same.

Love and kisses,
Guerrilla Girls