New DTLA Museum Planned for Old Bank District, Literalizes Connection Between Art and Money

Courtesy Tom Wiscombe Architecture (Via the Architect's Newspaper)

Courtesy Tom Wiscombe Architecture (Via the Architect’s Newspaper)

It used to be that philanthropists, art collectors, and curators had a hand in founding museums. Now a property developer and an architect want in on the action. The Architect’s Newspaper reports that developer Tom Gilmore and architect Tom Wiscombe are planning to create a sprawling contemporary art museum in three adjacent bank buildings in downtown Los Angeles’ Old Bank District. Its name? The Old Bank District Museum.

Most of the exhibition spaces will be underground, including over half a dozen bank vaults. They plan to preserve relics like “old pneumatic tubes, submarine doors, and old mechanical equipment,” presumably for that perfect steampunk vibe. The are also planning a rooftop sculpture garden, and have already placed a steel sculpture inspired by the late architectural renegade Lebbeus Woods atop one of the buildings. But what will be between the basement and the roof? Artnet’s Benjamin Sutton offers a guess: “given Gilmore’s day job…high-end condos seem like a safe bet.” Demolition is expected to begin next month, with construction to commence next year, and an opening slated for 2017.

Questions as to who will be running the museum, who will be on the board, what artists will be featured and whether there will even be a collection remain unanswered. However, according to Sam Lubell, Gilmore said the collection “will tilt toward the deviant, up-and-coming variety, an antidote to established museums and philanthropy,” which we can presume is a jab aimed at MOCA and the forthcoming Broad only a few blocks away.

To some, a property development-cum-museum in one of L.A.’s most contested gentrification battlegrounds might seem like a problematic proposition. To those skeptics, Gilmore provides a response without a trace of irony: “I want to lock in the context, not let it be destroyed in favor of commerce.”

also by Matt Stromberg

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