What do you call the Santa Monica Museum of Art if it moves to Century City? Apparently, SMMoA Unbound.

That’s what the three-decade-old museum will be called when it leaves its space within the Bergamot Station Arts Center at the end of May, according to a release from the museum, for a “planned gestation period to refine and broaden its reach.”

Gestation will occur from interim office space in Century City.

After that, they’ll look for new permanent sites, inside Santa Monica and out. Among the locations the museum hopes to be welcomed is the redeveloped Bergamot Station.

The museum was founded by Abby Sher in 1984 and opened in 1989. Elsa Longhauser was appointed executive director at the turn of the century.

Longhauser received more than $180,000 worth of compensation in 2013, according to the museum’s most recent, available nonprofit filings.

The museum’s current landlord, Wayne Blank, who is considered the mastermind behind the industrial Bergamot Station Arts Center, raised the museum’s rents substantially last year.

Bergamot is up for redevelopment and the museum threw its weight behind the developer 26Street TOD, which had proposed a 20,000-square-foot space for the museum. Many of the gallerists at Bergamot opposed the 26Street plans and some blasted the museum for jumping to support the developer.

City planners recommended that City Council negotiate exclusively with 26Street TOD but, last year, council ignored the proposal, instead opting to work with the Jeff Worthe Real Estate Group.

Of late, the museum has been scrambling to find a new home.

“City staff has been working with the museum and their supporters to identify potential space options but unfortunately there are not many viable options currently available (e.g. too small, and/or too expensive),” said City Hall’s Economic Development Administrator Jennifer Taylor in an e-mail. “The City has prioritized the museum as a tenant for the City-owned portion of Bergamot Station Arts Center revitalization, however, at this time the Arts Center does not have any available space. It would be a shame for Santa Monica to lose, even temporarily, the Santa Monica Museum of Art.”

Mayor Kevin McKeown, too, has been trying to find the museum a space.

Reached right before the start of the debate over the Zoning Ordinance update Tuesday afternoon, McKeown said only that he is still working to find the museum a home in the Bay City.

While in Century City, the museum plans to host pop-up exhibitions, educational initiatives, and offerings from a retail shop.

“A vibrant kunsthalle free from the constraints of a permanent collection, SMMoA is uniquely equipped to make such a change,” museum officials said in a release. “Agile, responsive, and risk-taking, it has a history of presenting artists at pivotal or early stages in their careers. Free admission is in SMMoA’s DNA; it has always been free and accessible to all.”


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