The Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced this morning (well, if you don't count the New York Times and L.A. Times, both of which got the story last week for publication today) a $45 million donation from Stewart and Lynda Resnick. The gift will fund the building of a large new Renzo Piano exhibition space directly behind the architect’s Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM). The one-story building, 200 feet by 180 feet, will feature all natural light via a skylight system like that of BCAM, and is expected to house special exhibitions.

The announcement, held in a tent on the site, was made by LACMA director Michael Govan. (Okay, the CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, yadda yadda.) He introduced Lynda Resnick, who has been on the acquisitions board at the museum for 16 years. She credited Govan's leadership as being central to her and her husband's decision. Stewart Resnick said there were two reasons he decided to make the donation: “Number one, because Lynda wanted to do it.”

At this point, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, sitting next to the podium, made an aside to Stewart Resnick, who laughed and said, “Antonio, who knows something about the relationship between men and women” – doh! – “says that's also the second reason.” Stewart Resnick went on to add that Los Angeles had been very good to him, better than other places might have been, and that he believed in giving back to the community.

When the mayor spoke, he said how amazing it was that the Resnicks had accumulated so much wealth having started washing windows. Lynda Resnick, who was wearing a fetching gray outfit that suggested there are more millions where the 45 came from, immediately noted with a faint look of horror that it was not she who had done the windows.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, hailed by Govan as an important and constant supporter of LACMA, counted out the cultural institutions built (or rebuilt, in the case of the Getty Villa) in the county in the last decade: Disney Hall, BCAM, the Colburn School, the Getty, etc., and how any county would be proud of building just one such institution. He urged everyone to vote for Measure R on the November ballot, which would fund the Red Line extension up Wilshire to Fairfax – to LACMA, in other words. This, he said, would make the museum accessible to all Angelenos.

Piano, the renowned Italian architect, called it a miracle that in the city of cars, LACMA has managed to take away a street to combine the properties into one large campus. (Councilman Tom LaBonge, in the audience, got a nod for that one.) Piano went on to describe what was happening on the LACMA campus as “magic.” He thanked the Resnicks for giving not just the money, but the tools with which he and the museum could do so much for so many.

In addition to the $45 million for the building, the Resnicks have also committed to donating artworks valued at $10 million.

By Tom Christie

LA Weekly