Two coasts, two philanthropic projects with David Geffen attached, and two very different news stories. Just as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised Geffen’s record-setting “monumental gift” of $150 million to a new building for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New York’s Lincoln Center had scuttled a half-billion-dollar plan to renovate its David Geffen Hall.
The Lincoln Center project to improve the 1962 building that houses the New York Philharmonic was launched in 2015 by a $100 million gift from Geffen. In a page-one story today, The New York Times reports that the Geffen Hall project has been halted in part because of questions about who would pay for the rest of the $500 million-plus renovation.
The news was happier on the West Coast, with Garcetti lauding the LACMA gift. “Los Angeles is a world capital of arts and culture — a place where people everywhere can find inspiration in the power of creative expression,” the mayor said in a statement today. “David Geffen’s monumental gift to LACMA will live as an example of how philanthropy can transform institutions and touch people across generations. Angelenos and visitors from around the world will be moved by this incredible generosity and commitment to sharing and appreciating art in the 21st century.”
Geffen’s donation reportedly raises LACMA’s fundraising total to $450 million, with a goal of $650 million necessary for groundbreaking on the Peter Zumthor-designed David Geffen Galleries.
The new building would replace three structures, with groundbreaking set for 2019 and an estimated completion date of 2023.
In New York, meanwhile, the Lincoln Center news comes in the wake of other high-profile cultural projects hitting hard times. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is postponing plans for a new $600 million wing, and in September Barry Diller pulled the plug on his $250 million Hudson River pier development amidst opposition by critics (including real estate rivals) that the performance center could harm the river’s eco-system.
The Lincoln Center plan seems to have come under serious reconsideration with the recent arrival of new leadership of both Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic. “There was a general sense that the project had just gotten too complicated,” Debora L. Spar, the new president of Lincoln Center, said in a joint New York Times interview with Deborah Borda, the new president and chief executive of the Philharmonic. Spar said Geffen was “on board” with the Center’s retrenchment plans.
Geffen told The Times, “I’m happy. I know they’ll do something great.”