POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
Image via MoCA.org
UPDATE: Jeffrey Deitch named Director of Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art. ArtForum
Amidst the clamor of reasons to question Jeffrey Deitch as a possible Director for Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), “he has bad taste” seems to carry the most weight with those inside the art world. Nobody knows what would happen to his gallery — as Edward Winkleman points out on Art World Salon, there are no precedents (UPDATE: Greg.org notes Walter Hopps ran a gallery before running several museums, including Pasadena, the Corcoran, the Smithsonian's National Collection or whatever [now the SAAM], and the Menil) — and the usual conflict of interest stories aren’t taking off. I can only see this as having to do with the overall fatigue of the subject and a generally assumed resemblance of the situation to what happened with Mike Bloomberg when he was elected as New York City’s mayor in 2002: The founder and 88% owner of Bloomberg, a financial software services company, effectively stopped running the company.
To be clear, I’m not overly concerned with Jeffrey Deitch’s predilection for tacky art as a qualification for the job. He’s not being considered for a job as a curator, but rather, a business executive and fundraiser for the museum. On that level, I can’t imagine anyone more qualified for the job. Jeffrey Deitch is known to be an extremely creative financial wizard; in 1979 he helped start an art advisory service for wealthy clients at Citibank and established the now common practice of allowing clients to leverage art loan collateral. Given that MoCA only narrowly avoided closing in 2008, they need someone with this kind of track record. And if Jeffrey Deitch pushes the museum to do a few more iffy high publicity shows so be it. I can think of worse problems, and the museum had them just a year ago.
As I mentioned to Gawker yesterday over email, the real question New Yorkers should be asking is what would happen to Deitch Projects. Sure, the gallery exhibits a lot of schlock, but they’re also a venue for a large number of rising stars. If Deitch moves to Los Angeles, the New York Gallery scene will lose one of its most active professionals. That’s a significant blow no matter how you look at it.
One final observation on the subject: Should Deitch be appointed director, MoCA will be the second major museum in less than a week to appoint a head from the commercial world. Bill Moggridge, founder of the design firm Ideo, was appointed director of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York last week. Presumably Moggridge will have the advantage of more federal funding than Deitch, given the museum’s connection to the Smithsonian.