Outrage Over Paul Schimmel’s Dismissal at MoCA

by Paddy Johnson on June 29, 2012 Opinion

From left to right: Eli Broad, Paul Schimmel, and Jeffrey Deitch.

What a fucking mess. MoCA fired their Chief Curator Paul Schimmel Wednesday, and the outcry amongst critics has been loud and nearly universal. Art blogger Tyler Green says the museum’s decision is a loss for everyone, not just MoCA. He cites the Museum’s decision to postpone their exhibition “Ends of The Earth,” while privileging the Mercedes-Benz marketing opportunity, as evidence that they don’t value “historicizing exhibitions.” We had similar sentiments yesterday when we noted the museum’s transparent attempts at capitalizing on Hollywood; MoCA scrapped a Jack Goldstein exhibition in favor of a show by the late actor Dennis Hopper in 2010.

For once, though, bloggers may be relatively quiet voices among the choir. Over at New York MagazineJerry Saltz aptly compares the museum to the Guggenheim circa 2000-2005, under its “megalomaniacal director, Thomas Krens.” Saltz then wonders if the institution is even a genuine member of the artistic and creative community. Worse still for the museum, board member and artist John Baldessari is speaking out against the decision; he told the Los Angeles Times he regrets not being at the meeting and gravely pronounced, “I think this is a potential tipping point for MOCA. First I want to know the reasons for him being fired and if they were sufficient to warrant him being fired.”  The museum has not yet issued a press release on Schimmel’s departure.

The Los Angeles Times has a report that includes many statements from museum directors and artists, all of whom are outraged. And it’s not hard to see why. This is a museum that, over the last 20 years, has put on some of the best shows this country has seen. As we outlined yesterday, Schimmel was no small part of their success. That MoCA would let him go deeply saddens me, because this can’t be a decision made with the object of furthering art. It’s a decision that privileges media partnerships and social climbing before the things that actually enrich our lives.

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