Museums USA

Speculation grows about change at the top at MoCA, Los Angeles

Board expected to meet as rumours swirl about Jeffrey Deitch’s imminent departure

Deitch at the opening of “Art in the Streets” at Moca's Geffen Contemporary space

Although the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Los Angeles, Jeffrey Deitch, has two years to go of his five-year contract, his departure may be imminent. Unnamed sources close to the institution have told the Los Angeles Times and New York Times that the museum’s board is due to meet today (23 July) and a statement is expected shortly about finding his successor. The institution did not respond to our request for a comment after LA Weekly first reported that he was in the process of resigning.

A gallerist turned museum director, Deitch took the helm of MoCA in 2010, having run the New-York-based, for-profit Deitch Projects since 1996. Through shows such as the graffiti art blockbuster “Art in the Streets” (2011) and the launch of MoCA TV (2012), the institution aimed to attract a bigger and younger audience. Soon after Deitch’s arrival, MoCA’s galleries on Grand Avenue were re-hung, giving prominence to works from the Panza collection, something close to the heart of Eli Broad, the LA-based philanthropist, key MoCA supporter and general mover and shaker. Deitch’s strategy worked initially: attendance shot up to 402,000 in 2011 largely due to “Art in the Streets” at its Geffen Contemporary space. But last year, total attendance across the institution’s three venues had fallen to 249,000 visitors.

Last summer, the institution weathered a storm of criticism when its longstanding chief curator Paul Schimmel left abruptly, closely followed by the resignation of its artist-trustees, including John Baldessari, Catherine Opie and Barbara Kruger. And this spring, MoCA’s trustees were forced to issue a statement insisting that the board was “committed to independence” after speculation that a merger with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was possible. A fundraising drive resulted in pledges of more than $75m by MoCA’s trustees and supporters, which if received will do much to restore the finances of an institution that was in financial disarray before Deitch’s appointment. Cost cutting and unfilled posts have left MoCA with only two full-time curators.

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