The Geffen Gift


The new LACMA design, as it overlooks nearby park space. (Atelier Peter Zumthor)

Thanks to the breathtaking generosity of David Geffen, it seems ever more likely that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will move ahead with its plans for expansion. Geffen’s pledge of $150 million raises the coffers to $450 million of the anticipated $650 million required before the project begins.

With a design by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Peter Zumthor envisioning an amoebic structure that will span Wilshire Boulevard, the new building will be known as the David Geffen Galleries. According to the Los Angeles Times, Geffen’s pledge is “the largest single cash gift from an individual in LACMA’s history” and the finished building, a public facility, “will essentially be owned by the people of Los Angeles County.”

While many super-donors fund housing for their personal art collections, Geffen’s gift endows the structure, not the contents. Groundbreaking, anticipated for 2019, will include the removal of three 1965 vintage buildings by William Pereira and a 1986 structure by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates. Museum Director Michael Govan explained that those buildings “would soon need more than $300 million in upgrades and restoration if they were to remain standing.”

Culture – music, theatre, dance, history, and art – is at the very heart of what makes Los Angeles a great city. We are fortunate to have visionary individuals such as David Geffen who share their belief in “the power of these institutions to change people’s lives” through such munificent philanthropy.