No Artists Left on Art Museum Board

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Artists have been the core of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles since abstract painter Sam Francis led their spirited campaign to establish it in 1979, but there are no longer any artists on its board of directors following a mass resignation in protest of museum policies.

Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger and Catherine Opie, all highly-respected luminaries in the art world, quit the 36-member board within the space of a week amid speculation that plans for a large exhibition devoted to the influence of disco music on the arts was in the offing.

Although some might argue that the impending sounds of disco alone might be enough to empty a board room, in this case it is preceded by years of turmoil and change. The museum, which is devoted to the collection, presentation and interpretation of work created since 1940, was rescued from insolvency in 2008 by billionaire Eli Broad after it came to light that MOCA had been using its endowment to pay basic operating expenses.

Broad, a collector, philanthropist and lifetime board trustee, was instrumental in hiring Jeffrey Deitch, a New York art dealer with no museum experience, as MOCA’s director in 2010 to replace Jeremy Strick, an artists’ favorite. Deitch almost immediately clashed with longtime chief museum curator Paul Schimmel, who resigned under pressure in June.

The museum lost three key officials with financial duties in March. At the time, Charles E. Young, former UCLA chancellor and ex-MOCA chief executive, said the departures and two others in mid-2011 characterized it as “a turnover that begins to look like turmoil.”

–Ken Broder  


To Learn More:

Museum’s New Identity Causes More Fallout (by Randy Kennedy, New York Times)

MOCA's Loss of Artist-Trustees Strikes at Museum's Core (by Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times)

Paul Schimmel's 22-Year Tenure at L.A. MOCA, From California Conceptualism to Murakami Maximalism (by Julia Halperin, Blouin Art Info)

MOCA Show to Examine Disco Music's Influence on Art and Culture (by Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times)

MOCA's Firing of Paul Schimmel Is a Bad Sign (by Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times)

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