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Santa Monica Museum of Art Finds New Home in Downtown LA
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

May 10, 2016 -- The Santa Monica Museum of Art won't be returning to the bayside city but instead will move to Downtown Los Angeles and re-emerge as the the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, its executive director has announced.

“It has been a year since the Santa Monica Museum of Art moved out of Bergamot Station Art Center and into temporary office space in Century City,” said Executive Director Elsa Longhauser.

“Now, one year later, with pioneering vision and unwavering support from our board of directors and artists advisory council, I am pleased to announce another transformation.”

A capital campaign is underway to finance the new institute, Longhauser said.

In April 2015, the financially struggling museum announced it was leaving the Bergamot location after 32 years and moving temporarily to Culver City. Its last official event, the 11th annual “Incognito” benefit art sale, took place in May 2015. The location is now closed, according to SMMoA officials.

Museum officials had taken the name, “SMMoA Unbound,” for the institution during the year-old transition to a new location, said Longhauser.

“Our name and our location may change, but what remains constant is the goal to reveal the vibrant, untold stories and pivotal moments in the history of contemporary art,” she said. “ICA LA will continue to champion these core values through a renewed and expanded lens.”

The new museum will open at 1717 East 7th Street. in the Arts District of Los Angeles, a formerly gritty, mostly industrial area on the eastern edge of the city transformed by redevelopment. It's now home to art gallery rows and hosts a monthly art walk and street fair.

Disappointed Santa Monica officials and cultural leaders said in April 2015 they would work to try to keep the museum in town (“Santa Monica Museum of Art Moving to Century City,” April 15, 2015).

SMMoA's closing will mean one less visitors' attraction at the Bergamot Art Center, which is near a stop on the new Expo Light Rail Line scheduled to open May 20 and is slated for a major redevelopment.

Councilman Kevin McKeown, who was serving as mayor in April 2015, said then that the museum was the City's “preferred tenant” for the art center.

Like many of the tenants, however, the museum faced a big rent hike it could no longer afford. The museum had paid $7,900 a month before its landlord more than doubled the rent.

Former landlord Wayne Blank told the Lookout in April 2015 he had to raise the museum's rent to $16,000 a month because that amount was more reflective of the market value.

The area is expected to undergo a dramatic transformation after the City Council in September 2014 approved a nearly $100 million redevelopment of the Bergamot Station Arts Center, rejecting staff recommended developer. The site sits on approximately seven acres of land, of which approximately five acres is owned by the City ("Council Rejects City Staff's Recommendation for Bergamot Arts Center Developer," September 11, 2014).

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