The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Via MOCA
Ending a week of speculation, Jeffrey Deitch has been named the new director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA– becoming the only art dealer and commercial gallery owner to take on the leadership of a major American museum. The decision marks a kind of turning point from the more traditional approach whereby museums draw their directors from pools of established curators or academics. Deitch stated this afternoon that “(…) it’s my goal to position MOCA as the most innovative and influential contemporary art museum in the world. I am excited by the opportunity to play a role in making MOCA and Los Angeles the leading contemporary art destination.” Founded in 1979, MOCA occupies two buildings in downtown LA and is renown for its collection which includes around 6,000 pieces of international artwork produced in the past 70 years. Jeffrey Deitch, 57, founded his own gallery, Deitch Projects LLC, in 1996 and operates from three different spaces–two in Soho and one in Long Island City. Known for having experimental projects and programs in his galleries–sometimes crossing over into music, theater and other disciplines– Dietch started his career as a Citi Group Vice President, where he developed an art advisory and art financing business. “He will cease to be involved with any commercial activity by June 1st,” MOCA’s Director of Communications, Lyn Winter, has stated (Bloomberg).
Jeffrey Deitch, the new director of MOCA. Via LATimes
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The release of Deitch’s appointment included a congratulatory statement from Michael Govan– his new ‘crosstown’ partner, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who stated “Jeffrey Deitch has been a very creative and visible force in the contemporary art world for decades. He has always had an interest in the not-for-profit aspect of his art activites. With both strong intellectual interests and pragmatic business and education expertise, he is a welcome addition to the growing art scene in Los Angeles.”
Deitch replaces Charles Young, who was named MOCA’s Chief executive officer in December 2008 after the resignation of Director Jeremy Strick, which happened amid the financial crisis. Strick was MOCA’s director for ten years and under his time, the museum recieved consistent acclaim for its exhibitions, yet fell around $2 million a year short, on average, of balancing it’s budget. “It’s not a toxic job, but it’s going to be an uphill battle,” said Brett Littman, the executive director of New York’s non-profit Drawing Center. “It’s always better to come in at a low-point, since whatever you do looks like an improvement (Bloomberg).”
While the economic downturn did wreak major havoc on the museum’s financial stability–(MOCA spent down a $38 million dollar endowment to keep funding operations and had no reserves left to withstand the September 2008 crash)–a $30 million bailout offer from billionaire art collector Eli Broad was accepted in 2009, along with another $34 million in donations and pledges, aided by emergency fund-raising.
MOCA will officially present Deitch at a conference tomorrow, Tuesday at 10:30 am. Selma Holo, director USC’s Fisher Museum of Art, commented on the new appointment, stating, “I think that the news out of MOCA is, frankly, stunning. Deitch has done amazing work as an extremely innovative art dealer. At the same time, we would be remiss not to ask ourselves how he and MOCA are planning to make the transition from the world of commerce and its values to another universe. One understands that these worlds blend, but there are still or should be some lines that are not crossed (LATimes).”
MOCA did highlight Deitch’s past curatorial achievements, perhaps helping to counteract the aforementioned concerns. His curatorial experience has included “Lives,” a 1975 exhibition about artists who use their own lives as an art medium, numerous contemporary art shows for Greek collector Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation in Athens and “Form Follows Fiction” at the Castello di Rivoli in Torino, Italy in 2001.
MOCA Says Jeffrey Deitch is It’s New Director [LATimes]
Jeffrey Deitch Expected to Head Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art [WSJ]
Art Dealer Deitch Named to Run L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art [Bloomberg]
What Deitch Means for L.A. [Artnet]
Deitch to Take Over MOCA [Artnewspaper]
Mayor Bumps Deitch [NYObserver