By: Claire McKown
July 19, 2012
In the homeland of Zoe Bios Creative, trouble is a-brewing at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The drama started at the end of June, when long time curator, Paul Schimmel, was fired from his post by the museum’s board of trustees. In the wake of this action, several board members have resigned, apparently in disgust at the direction museum leadership has taken. Most notably, all the artists on the board have left, including John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catharine Opie, and Ed Ruscha.
LA MoCA has long been in the news due to its turbulent history. In 2008 the museum was in a dire financial situation due to overspending; to save the day, billionaire businessman Eli Broad was brought in to join the board of trustees (and donate $30 million). The year after, Jeffrey Deitch was hired as the new museum director, and since then the museum has seen a number of notable staff members leave. Three former curators have gone on to become directors of other world renowned museums: Philipp Kaiser is now at Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, Ari Wiseman is at the Guggenheim, and Ann Goldstein is at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The posts these three left behind have remained vacant ever since. Will Schimmel follow in the footsteps of his former colleagues?
So what does all this mean for the future of MoCA? Basically, these changes are giving the museum a rather bad reputation. MoCA seems to be in danger of becoming yet another “tourist attraction for one-shot visitors, a rogue institution stripped of the reputation won for it by generations of artists,” as Jerry Saltz so aptly said in his NY Magazine article on the subject. With the LA creative community abandoning the museum, its reputation for putting on groundbreaking and intelligent shows is being threatened. Whether or not Mr. Deitch and Mr. Broad will be able to pull MoCA out of this disaster remains to be seen. My fingers are crossed, but things are not looking too good.