Museums USA

Spate of high-profile resignations at Los Angeles museum

Chief curator and four artist-trustees leave city's Museum of Contemporary Art

A summer of discontent rumbles on in Los Angeles with a spate of high-profile resignations at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). Since the beginning of July the museum has seen the departure of its chief curator Paul Schimmel, after 22 years with the institution, and four artist-trustees.

In a press statement the museum praised the curator's numerous exhibitions and acquisitions and announced that an exhibition space in its Geffen Contemporary building will be named in his honour. But Schimmel and the museum's director, Jeffrey Deitch, have stayed tight-lipped about the factors that precipitated their parting of ways. The Los Angeles philanthropist and MoCA life trustee Eli Broad, who was instrumental in luring Deitch from New York but has no voting right on the board, told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that "[Schimmel] was from the old culture and was not getting along with the director."

Speculation that there is tension within the museum over its curatorial direction and style of governance has been fuelled by the resignations a fortnight later of the artist-trustees Catherine Opie and Barbara Kruger, as well as John Baldessari. In their joint letter to the board and Deitch, Opie and Kruger made a point of calling for improved communication between all the board members "not just a select few". They added: "Parties and galas are ok, but sometimes these things called 'museums' have to have things called 'exhibitions'."

The artist Ed Ruscha was the next to resign, describing the museum's course as "different than I imagined". He wished the institution well, as did the other departing trustees.

Recent additions to MoCA's board include the philanthropist Wallis Annenberg and Steven Cohen, the art collector and billionaire hedge-fund manager.

Under Deitch's leadership the museum's attendance has risen to 400,000 last year, having dipped as low as 147,000 a year in the recent past. Schimmel will become an independent curator and he will continue to co-organise "Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void", which is due to open at MoCA on 29 September (until 7 January 2013).

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