I’ll be honest: My dream is that we would be holding that party every year—and Alia and Dino have been so generous to organize it—to be a celebration of museums, plural, in Asia. We’re standing in for Yuz right now because Budi’s health has been in a little bit of a transition. But why are we there? We’re there because we have this partnership in Shanghai. And obviously UCCA has gone through a lot, too, they’re really trying to make a go of it in Beijing. And M+, we’re all very good friends too. And we’re all very good friends with the [National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines] and the Seoul [Museum of Art]. But my hope—and I think this is Alia’s hope, too—is that we carve out a space in Art Basel Hong Kong to celebrate museums, as well as galleries—the other side of the ecosystem. Let’s talk about museums as well as galleries so we have that ecosystem working together. That’s really the point of it. And, honestly—they want to throw a great party.
NF: Do you think that this is a model for other institutions in the U.S.?
MG: Well, let’s just say we’re pioneers. And the pioneers sometimes arrive too early! [laughs] And other times they set a model. So we’re hoping that we can do the groundwork with Budi—and by the way, he will be known as a hero, he’s the instigator—and if this becomes something that proves to be valuable, to create value for education and art, then I think others can follow.
NF: How does this collection and the collection of Gérard and Dora Cognié play into the expansion of the campus in L.A.? Is there going to be more space devoted to having the work on view more often?
MG: The Cognié collection is a promised gift, we can borrow from it, we’re going to do an upcoming show so people can see some of what’s in it. Over the years we doubled our campus, now we have to fix the old buildings, so we’re cutting them in half again while we repair and rebuild our buildings and then we’ll have about 240,000 square feet of exhibition space on Wilshire Boulevard, which is a lot. It’s not as big as the [Art Institute of] Chicago
; [the Museum of Fine Arts,] Houston; or New York’s Metropolitan Museum
, but it’s a lot. We’ll have a vastly expanded presence here for showing our global collections. And as you know, we’ve increased the quantity of contemporary presentations for the reason that there’s so much art being made that’s so relevant to the world, and audiences are hungry for it. What is key, though, is that if you walk into any general American art museum that’s encyclopedic, there is not a balance of America, Europe, and Asia. If you’re trying to truly represent human creativity, you’ve got to rebalance the presentation. So a certain amount of this is to balance presentations for a truer view of art production around the world.
NF: That’s important for any encyclopedic museum, but do you see it as more important for LACMA—because you’re on the Pacific Rim and you’re within that global context?
MG: Of course, much more important—much more important. We’ve expanded our presence in Korea and Japan, and we’re working on our presence in China. So yes, it’s critically important. We have a beautiful collection of art from the Middle East. The Peter Zumthor building is key in this way: Most the collections will be on one massive single floor—no hierarchy. It’s the organic shape: two entrances, no front, no back. It’s an idea that there’s no hierarchy, to not put Europe on a pedestal or put China on a pedestal. You’ve been to L.A.—it’s a very non-hierarchical city. That is the philosophical mission rebalancing and rethinking the truth of cultures around the world.
NF: If you can imagine 10 years, 20 years down the line, how are these partnerships—with Yuz and Budi Tek, with the Cognié collection—going to shape LACMA in the future?
MG: I think it will have an incredible influence on the shape of LACMA and—if you’re seeking that notion of balance and truth in representing the diversity of human creativity—it will be such an asset in the future. Everyone’s pretty aware that China is likely to be bigger than the U.S. in economics, population, and cultural production. So it makes sense if you’re thinking about the long term. It may not be true in the next 10 years, but it seems likely to be true in the next 50 years.