Amid changing development landscape and high rents, Santa Monica Museum of Art begins search for a new home

Art News West
(Santa Monica Museum of Art)

(Santa Monica Museum of Art)

Edward Cella Art and Architecture is not the only Los Angeles art institution leaving its longtime location soon. AN has learned from the Los Angeles Times that the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMOA) is closing its doors at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station early next month.

Fred Fisher's plan for Bergamot had prominently featured SMMOA (Fred Fisher and Partners)

Fred Fisher’s plan for Bergamot had prominently featured SMMOA. (Frederick Fisher and Partners)

According to the newspaper, the move was largely precipitated by the city’s selection last fall of developer Bergamot Station Ltd/Worthe Real Estate and architect Fred Fisher for a major redevelopment of Bergamot. That scheme has been noted for its effort to maintain the 33-gallery complex’s industrial shed vernacular. The museum had hoped for a proposal by 26th Street TOD and Rios Clementi Hale that would have added $17 million to its endowment.

Furthermore the owner of Bergamot, Wayne Blank, doubled SMMOA’s rent last spring. “It was a huge blow,” SMMOA Executive Director Elsa Longhauser told AN. “It made it clear that the landlord was not eager to continue his support of the museum.”

“They picked the development team that offered them the most, which wasn’t the best of the three teams,” Blank responded to AN. “They had the worst plan. It would have destroyed Bergamot.” He added: “It was no longer comfortable to have them on board.”

Bergamot, once a train station and site for light manufacturing, has been a home to art since the early 1990s. SMMOA is now taking time to look for a new home. “We will use this time very intensely and judiciously to examine all the possibilities and determine what makes the most sense,” Longhauser told the Times.

“There are a number of leads, but nothing’s signed and sealed,” Longhauser told AN. She said there was a chance that the museum may have to leave Santa Monica altogether, largely because of the city’s high rents.

Blank, who hopes SMMOA can “reinvent itself” elsewhere, said that he is now looking for another non-profit to take the museum’s space, if possible. The city’s redevelopment of Bergamot won’t start for another two to three years at the earliest.

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