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Artist Group Petitions Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles

(re-posted from New York Times, Arts Beat)

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which has been in a harsh spotlight since its chief curator, Paul Schimmel, resigned under pressure in late June and all the artists on its board of trustees left in protest, is now the subject of an online petition demanding that it make curatorial changes to right itself.

A group called MOCA Mobilization, led by the Los Angeles artists Diane Thater and Cindy Bernard, created the petition on the website on Tuesday, calling on the museum to begin a search for a new chief curator as well as for a senior curator, a position being vacated by Philipp Kaiser, who was recently named the director of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany.

The director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeffrey Deitch, said after Mr. Schimmel’s departure that he intended to leave the job of chief curator unfilled and to take on those duties himself, while supplementing the museum’s own small curatorial staff with guest curators. Mr. Deitch, a former New York gallery owner who took over as director in 2010, has taken the museum in a more pop-culture-focused direction, rankling many in the Los Angeles art community.

The petition also called on the museum to find new artists to serve on its board of trustees, after the recent resignations of John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha. “MOCA’s relationship with the artist community at its core is broken,” the petition argues, adding, “Artists are vital to the life of the museum and the artist trustees must remain informed.”

On Friday, Mr. Deitch posted a message on the museum’s Web site, seeking to assure museum patrons that he was taking the institution in the right direction. “It is essential that MOCA remain progressive and at the forefront of change, as it always has been,” Mr. Deitch wrote. “The museum’s upcoming program is a response to and an articulation of the current art and cultural landscape today.”

MOCA Mobilization was founded in 2008, as the museum was undergoing a financial crisis that threatened to close it or force it to merge with another museum. As of Wednesday morning, the petition had registered 341 signatures.


PHOTO CREDIT: Stephanie Diani for The New York Times. Photo of Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, at the reception for the museum’s “Art in the Streets” exhibition in 2011.



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