The five year contract that Jeffery Deitch held with the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art ended after just three years.
The road was rocky from the beginning for the the New York art dealer turned museum director. Indeed this appointment was experimental, though he was known to run his New York gallery more like a private museum than a showroom. Deitch's legacy remains unclear. Though he took the post in a period where the museum was very close to collapse and even possible absorption by the Los Angeles county Museum of Art and steered it back to a stabilizing point much of the staff, including longtime chief curator Paul Schimmel departed, as did many artists on the museum's board. Programming goals and vision shifted under Deitch and this met with criticism by some and praise by others- the departees on one side, and other board members, including Chairs Maria Arena Bell and David G. Johnson on the other. Alliances seem to have done much to fraction the Museum and put Deitch on the defensive. Many charged that his moves to integrate the arts lead to programming that was obsessed with pop-culture and overlooked more traditional ways of engaging with art.
It may be too soon to step away from the unfolding drama that has plagued MOCA and see the big picture clearly, but the root of this problem seems in some ways to be how to overcome a growing indifference in patrons. How do cultural institutions survive in a climate where the party around the art is more exciting to attendees than the art itself? The real take-away question is this- how do cultural institutions survive, thrive, and cultivate new interest as they educate and refine the taste of those who come through their doors.
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