That Sunday L.A. Times op-ed by MoCA Trustee Eli Broad does not sit well with me. The whole piece is supposed to explain Chief Curator Schimmel’s departure, but how it does so is up to the reader to piece together. Broad lays out exactly ten paragraphs of history, none of which have anything to do with Schimmel. Mostly, the piece serves to tell us that Broad wasn’t around when the financial crisis started in the 90’s, though he has been around to oversee its rebound. Broad points to the great progress MoCA’s made; It has built its endowment back up and increased its attendance numbers. He fails to mention that this year MoCA put nothing towards its endowment, and offers no context for the shows he tells us lost money.
When Broad finally gets to Schimmel, things get really icky. “Schimmel is a brilliant curator, but the board members recognized the director’s right to put his own team together,” Broad tells us. Fair enough, but MoCA cut positions outright when they decided not to replace Schimmel and his assistants, so exactly what kind of team building is going on here? I have a feeling L.A. will be looking at more hamster-inspired shows should former Deitch Director Kathy Grayson be invited as a guest curator.
On many points that matter, Broad’s sentiments just sound disingenuous. Past the statements about team building, the philanthropist remaining words were dedicated to discussing the importance of fiscal prudence in a time where institutions across the country are hurting. This is nonsense. As Tyler Green points out, not all museums are struggling; there is no nationwide issue. As Lee Rosenbaum points out, Paul Schimmel’s pay went down last year, as Director Jeffrey Deitch’s increased. As Christopher Knight points out, MoCA’s board of trustees has a combined net worth in excess of $21 billion, and yet somehow the institution has financial problems.
Practically everyone’s chimed in but for the Times. Their absence is conspicuous. If we’re going to get the real story, we need to hear from Schimmel, and they’re one of only two publications who could realistically get a quote.