Inside the Marciano Art Foundation's spectacular shutdown
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fairly difficult
The Marciano Art Foundation's spectacular opening was matched only by its mysterious and abrupt closure. What happened?
In spring 2017, 600 members of the glitterati gathered inside the converted Masonic temple near Koreatown to celebrate the opening of the Marciano Art Foundation, the swank new home for the private collection of Guess Inc. co-founders Maurice and Paul Marciano.

Guests from the worlds of Hollywood (Sharon Stone), politics (Mayor Eric Garcetti), philanthropy (Eli Broad) and art (Takashi Murakami) strolled through the 110,000-square-foot space. On view: 114 works from 47 artists culled from the brothers' 1,500 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos, prints and installations. As guests mingled, the loading dock gate opened onto the parking lot, temporarily transformed into a sumptuous garden where a feast was catered by Wolfgang Puck.

The new foundation, part of the growing pack of private museums established by ultra-wealthy art collectors, signaled that the Marcianos had reached the pinnacle of power and prestige among the city's cultural elite. Jeffrey Deitch, the art dealer and former director of the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art, had predicted to the New York Times: "I think this will become one of the most important spaces for contemporary art in the whole country."

Alas, it was not to be. Last November, just two and half years after opening, the Marcianos shocked the city and the art establishment by abruptly closing their new showpiece. The brothers blamed low attendance, but others linked the announcement to an internal labor dispute. Just one day earlier, the foundation laid off about 70 employees who were attempting to unionize.


The Marciano Art Foundation is housed in a former Masonic temple on Wilshire Boulevard near Koreatown. (Yoshiro Makino / wHY Architecture and Marciano Art Foundation)

In interviews with The Times, nearly two dozen people involved with the Marcianos or familiar with their art collection and their other enterprises over the years said the closure was more complicated. They paint a knotty portrait of…
Stacy Perman
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