MCAC History

MCAC History

MCAC members visiting Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty with curator Stephanie
Barron, 2005. © Museum Associates/LACMA.

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The Council’s history actually predates LACMA; it has its origins in the early years of the art division of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art, out of which emerged a new museum devoted exclusively to art in 1961. At the time, Los Angeles was home to a modestly-sized artist community, a small covey of art galleries, and very few collectors of contemporary art. Yet the latter-day emergence of Southern California as a world art capital was already nascent.

In 1961, around the time the Los Angeles County Museum of Art incorporated as a separate and distinct institution, a group of contemporary art collectors (whom collector Michael Blankfort described as a group of "like-minded art fanatics”) came together under the name of the Organizing Committee for Contemporary Art. Their stated objective was to encourage and support the program of contemporary art at LACMA.

The museum had not yet moved to Hancock Park and the art division of the Los Angeles Museum (LACMA's predecessor) owned scarcely any contemporary woks of art. Yet the committee was willing to declare its faith in both the newly chartered institution and the Los Angeles art community. The organizing committee comprised some very savvy and dedicated players, and they were soon anointed the Contemporary Art Council (CAC), a volunteer support group, by the fledgling museum and its board.

Membership History

Membership in the early days of the CAC was invitational. Early members included: Betty Asher, Michael and Dorothy Blankfort, Stanley and Betty Freeman, Stanley and Elyse Grinstein, Melvin and Pauli Hirsch, Ed Janss, Gifford and Joann Phillips, Harry and Phyllis Sherwood, and Fred and Marcia Weisman. All were avid and committed collectors eager to work with chief curator James Elliott to promote contemporary art at LACMA.

In 1964, just before LACMA opened as an independent institution at its new location in Hancock Park, Maurice Tuchman, a twenty-eight-year-old curator from New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, was hired as curator of 20th century art. Tuchman and the department under his leadership flourished. Together with his curatorial associates Jane Livingston and Betty Asher in the 1960s and 70s, and Stephanie Barron, hired in 1976, Tuchman built the museum’s holdings of modern and contemporary art. Tuchman served as department head from 1964 to 1993, while Barron continues to serve as senior curator to this day. They credit the MCAC with helping them build LACMA's world-class collection of modern and contemporary art.

Past Chairs of the CAC/MCAC

Gifford Phillips, 1961–63

Frederick R. Weisman, 1963–64 (deceased)

Harry Sherwood, 1964–68 (deceased)

Dr. Judd Marmor, 1968–70 (deceased)

Joann Phillips, 1970–72

Stanley Grinstein, 1972–74

Dorothy Blankfort, 1974–76 (deceased)

Beatrice Kolliner, 1976–78 (deceased)

Dr. Gilman Alkire, 1978–80

Benjamin B. Smith, 1980–82 (deceased)

Michael G. Smooke, 1982–87

Harold A. Held, 1987–90 ( deceased)

Dr. Beatrice Cooper, 1990–94

David Gersh, 1994–96

Terri Smooke, 1996–2000

Richard S. Rosenzweig, 2002

Jane Glassman, 2002–08

Adrienne Horwitch, 2008–10

Tony Canzoneri, 2010–present

The Future of the MCAC

Today, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council has grown and evolved from a small committee to an art patronage organization. The state of visual art in Los Angeles offers virtually limitless possibilities for those who wish to engage its vitality, and the MCAC continues to fund the acquisition of modern and contemporary art at LACMA, and promote the region’s burgeoning artistic community. 

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