Is the third time the charm for a Las Vegas art museum?

The Modern Contemporary Art Museum is planned for the Arts District

A rendering of The Modern Contemporary Art Museum, a new museum and cultural center to be built in the Arts District.

The announcement that went out this morning about a new privately funded Modern Contemporary Art Museum to be built Downtown included one particular name that made our ears perk.

According to the press release, the Modern Contemporary Art Museum will be located in the Arts District and house 35,000 square feet of museum galleries “with an important and progressive series of rotating exhibits. It will span three floors and showcase the works of both established and emerging artists from the 20th century onward.”

If that rings a bell, that’s because it sounds similar to the proposed LV MOCA, the closest Downtown has ever come to having an art museum that could hold an interest locally, nationally and internationally. That project was planned more than three years ago, when art collector Poju Zabludowicz, chairman and chief executive of Tamares Group (which owns several Downtown properties), proposed a museum that would have rotated in works from the esteemed and contemporary Zabludowicz Collection.

But plans for that privately funded museum were put on hold because of the economy and a timeline the city placed on the project that couldn't be met.

The link between LV MOCA and the proposed Modern Contemporary Art Museum is advisory board member Jonathon Jossel, who served as spokesman for the Zabludowicz and LV MOCA.

More interestingly is that Jossel’s name is the only one on either of Modern’s two boards—aside from artist Tim Bavington (also on the advisory board)—that signifies a direct link to the larger art world (through the Zabludowics). Jossel says that it's to early to comment on the project, but that Pojo and Anita Zabludowicz are indeed aware of the plans to built Modern Contemporary: "They know about the project and are really excited about it."

The Board of Directors is made up of Brett Wesley Sperry, Denise Cashman, Quentin Abramo, Dr. Keith Boman, Ed Borgato, Louis Castle, Sam Cherry, Alexandra Epstein, JF Finn, Andy Schuricht, Andrea Maricich, Kelley Nyquist Goldberg and Katie Binion O’Neill.

A rendering of a classroom at the Modern's Center for Creativity. The Modern is a new contemporary art museum and cultural center planned for the Arts District.

In addition to Bavington and Jossel, the advisory board consists of Jenna Morton, Mark Brandenburg, Hugh Anderson, Flo Rogers, Jim Stanford, Cree Zischke and Geoffrey Beaumont.

Both boards are comprised of local movers and shakers who are active in the community and have participated in other cultural projects. Some are experienced fundraisers.

“What I am thrilled about is that those individuals in those positions might not have a vast and deep, robust understanding of art—other than Bavington, of course—and that’s a good thing because finally what we’re going to do is represent a current generation of a constituent in Las Vegas,” says Patrick Duffy, board president of the Las Vegas Art Museum, which closed due to the economy in 2009. Its board members included a mix of savvy business people and art collectors, including Jim Murren, Robin Greenspun, Tom Lawyer, Curt Anderson and Dana Lee.

The Las Vegas Art Museum, which got its start in Lorenzi Park decades ago, then moved to the West Sahara Library and eventually became a contemporary art museum when Libby Lumpkin took over as executive director in 2005. The Las Vegas Art Museum's collection is now housed and on display at the Barrick Museum at UNLV.

“I wish them all the best,” Duffy says of the new project. “I applaud them.”

The Modern Contemporary Art Museum is only one component of a larger project, described in a press release as “a progressive cultural center that will showcase art, technology and design, in addition to providing essential training and tools for a new wave of artists and designers.” Along with the museum, the project will include the Center for Creativity, a 15,000-square-foot learning space, and Luminous Park, an outdoor sculpture garden that "will provide a much needed green space to Las Vegas' Downtown."

The press release also stated that $2.4 million in cash and land donations has already been pledged to the ongoing $29 million capital campaign.

As to exhibits and whether the museum will have an acquisition program or if it will show works that are on loan, Sperry says that Modern Contemporary is not at this time a collecting museum, adding that it will take time to figure out the programming and that the team that will operate the museum would be best to direct those questions to.

The focus at this point is on fundraising and getting the museum built, say board members. The campus will be on an empty patch of land at Charleston Boulevard and Art Way on the east side of the Arts Factory. Part of Art Way will be closed off to accommodate it. Sperry, who owns Brett Wesley Gallery on the other side of Charleston, was also behind the design and development of Art Square, which is home to Artifice, Cockroach Theatre, Downtown Contemporary, Mingo Kitchen and Lounge and other businesses.

Given the recent economic history in Las Vegas, Michele Quinn, who helped curate the $40 million art collection at CityCenter, says she wishes them luck. "I’d be surprised if they’re able to raise the money that’s needed, given the economic climate. It’s a very different economy.”

According the press release, "The mission of the Modern is to inspire and educate through creativity, art and design. ... Not only will this project generate significant economic impact during the construction phase, but it will also generate ongoing economic impact through employment and tax revenue."

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Kristen Peterson

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