The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) is a contemporary art museum with three locations in greater Los Angeles, California. The main branch is located on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, near Walt Disney Concert Hall. MOCA's original space, initially intended as a "temporary" exhibit space while the main facility was built, is now known as the Geffen Contemporary, in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles. The Pacific Design Center facility is in nearby West Hollywood.
The museum's exhibits consist primarily of American and European contemporary art created since 1940.
In a 1979 political fund raising event at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Councilman Joel Wachs, and local philanthropist Marcia Simon Weisman happened to be seated at the same table. Throughout the evening, Weisman passionately discussed the city’s need for a contemporary art museum. In the following weeks, the Mayor’s Museum Advisory Committee was organized. The committee, led by William A. Norris, set about creating a museum from scratch, including locating funds, trustees, directors, curators, a gallery, and most importantly an art collection.
The following year, the fledgling Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, was operating out of an office on Boyd Street. The city’s most prominent philanthropists and collectors had been assembled into a Board of Trustees, and set a goal of raising $10 million in their first year. A working staff was brought together; Richard Koshalek was appointed chief curator; relationships were made with artists and galleries; and negotiations were begun to secure artwork and an exhibition space.
Since the museum’s inception, MOCA’s programming has been defined by its multi-disciplinary approach to contemporary art. With cutting-edge exhibitions, and popular evening events, MOCA is a place to experience contemporary art.
The MOCA downtown Los Angeles location is home to almost 5,000 artworks created since 1940, including masterpieces by classic contemporary artists, and inspiring new works by emerging and mid-career artists from Southern California and around the world. The MOCA is the only museum in Los Angeles devoted exclusively to contemporary art.
In 1986, the celebrated Japanese architect Arata Isozaki completed the downtown location's sandstone building to international critical and public acclaim, marking a dramatic achievement in the contemporary art world and heralding a new cultural era in Los Angeles.
As the Los Angeles Times declared "There isn’t a city in America—not New York, not Chicago, not Houston, not San Francisco—where a more impressive museum collection of contemporary art can be seen."
The Grand Avenue location is used to display pieces from MOCA's substantial permanent collection, especially artists who did much of their work between 1940 and 1980. Included within the permanent collection are works by influential artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Kim Dingle, Sam Durant,Sam Francis, Arshile Gorky, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Franz Kline, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Piet Mondrian, Robert Motherwell, Elizabeth Murray, Claes Oldenburg, Raymond Pettibon, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Julian Schnabel, George Segal, Joel Shapiro, Frank Stella, and Cy Twombly.
There is also an extensive set of rooms used to display temporary exhibits, usually a major retrospective of an important artist, or works connected by a theme.
Subtly renovated by renowned Southern California architect Frank Gehry, with its three-story ceilings and wide open floor space, the TC immediately captivated critics and museum patrons alike with its accessibility, informality and lack of pretension. Writing in The New York Times, John Russell referred to it as "a prince among spaces," and William Wilson of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it "instantly had the hospitable aura of a people's museum." In the view of many, these two appraisals have been borne out in the ensuing years.
Due to the popularity and extraordinary suitability of the building for exhibiting contemporary art, the museum's board requested that the City of Los Angeles extend MOCA's lease on the facility for 50 years, until 2038. That request was granted in early 1986, and in 1996 the city extended the lease even further. Also in 1996, MOCA received a $5-million gift from The David Geffen Foundation in support of the museum's endowment drive, and in recognition of this extraordinary gift, the Temporary Contemporary was renamed The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.
The site is the largest of the three MOCA locations and is ideally suited to large-scale sculptural works and conceptual, multi-media or electronic installations. It is typically used to display more recent works, often by lesser known artists, and works which require a large amount of space. Some of these works are designed specifically for the Geffen Contemporary's space.
In 2000, MOCA opened a 3,000 square ft. exhibition space at the Pacific Design Center to present new work by emerging and established artists as well as ancillary programs based upon its major exhibitions and renowned permanent collection. MOCA also utilizes the 384-seat PDC auditorium for a range of public programs.
The Pacific Design Center, a 1.2 million square foot landmark building designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates in West Hollywood, features showrooms of traditional and contemporary furnishings.
On the first Sunday of each month from 1pm to 3:30pm, For Families workshops typically begin with an interactive, discussion-based "spotlight" tour, highlighting selected works from a current exhibition. Next, families work collaboratively to create art in response to the work they've seen.
Designed and taught by artists, these innovative, process-oriented workshops extend the gallery experience and frequently include special activities such as musical performance, movement, and other multidisciplinary approaches to works on view. The program is offered in English and Spanish.
Big Family Day is an annual spring culminating event for all of MOCA's school and community partnership programs. Featuring student docents, entertainment, music, artmaking and a student art exhibition, this event usually attracts about 500 participants, including MOCA members, their families, and the community at large.
First Sundays are For Families events are held at Grand Avenue unless otherwise stated in the bimonthly calendar or on the website.
Teens of Contemporary Art is an open gathering of high school students interested in learning more about contemporary art with their peers. The group meets each month for exhibition explorations, art workshops, discussions about contemporary art, and events planning. An advisory council of teens identifies the topics and issues addressed at the monthly sessions. All TOCA participants get free admission to the museum.
TOCA events are the second Sunday of every month.
Each year the MOCA Apprenticeship Program (MAP) creates a supportive artistic community for a small, diverse group of high school students. During this nine-month internship program, apprentices meet weekly with MOCA staff and guest artists, undertake individual and self-directed projects throughout the museum and discover more about contemporary art, MOCA, and their own professional future. Apprentices are considered staff and are paid an hourly wage. MAP participation is available by application only. Applications are available and due in the spring of each year.