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MOCA adds artists who resigned from board to its director search team

originally posted by The Los Angeles Times
September 24, 2013

The four prominent artists who resigned from the board of L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art in rapid succession during summer 2012 are now helping with the search for a new director to replace Jeffrey Deitch, whose resignation in July capped more than a year of turbulence for the museum.

MOCA confirmed Monday that John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha are all on its 14-member search committee.

“Pertinent qualities [for a new director] would be fundraising, experience in how a museum operates, and most importantly, vast curatorial skill,” Baldessari said in an email. “It would be a real opportunity to whoever is appointed, because there’s nowhere to go but up.”

Opie declined to comment when reached by The Times, and Kruger and Ruscha did not respond to emails.

Museum spokeswoman Lyn Winter said that no artists were involved in the search that had preceded Deitch’s hiring in 2010.

Deitch resigned as museum director in July with nearly two years left on his five-year contract, capping a tumultuous tenure marked by dwindling financial resources, rapid executive turnover, staff reductions and a debate over whether he had put too much of MOCA’s increasingly scarce funding into exhibitions examining intersections between visual art and pop culture.

Besides the four L.A. artists, Winter said, the search committee includes eight current members of the MOCA board, as well as Joel Wachs, the former Los Angeles City Councilman and MOCA board member who now heads the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York City, and Los Angeles attorney Maria Seferian.

Wachs, whose job running a major issuer of grants to museums and other arts institutions gives him a broad overview of the contemporary art world, is one of four co-chairs of the search committee, along with Maria Bell and David Johnson (who together chair MOCA’s board of trustees) and MOCA board President Fred Sands.

Also serving on the search committee are board vice-chairs Eugenio Lopez, Lillian Lovelace and Maurice Marciano, former board President Jeffrey Soros and MOCA life trustee Blake Byrne. A life trustee is an honorary designation for board members who’ve done outstanding service to the museum. Among other things, Byrne donated a 123-work collection to MOCA in 2004.

Phillips Oppenheim, an executive search firm that specializes in helping nonprofit organizations fill leadership jobs, is advising the committee. Its website notes a long roster of blue-chip museums and other arts institutions among its past clients.

The four artists, whose 2012 resignations from the MOCA board transpired over four days, have given different reasons for their departures, which collectively and individually were a harsh blow for an institution whose motto, “the Artist’s Museum,” is emblazoned outside its Grand Avenue headquarters.

Artists joined collectors to found the museum in 1979, and it has strived to include artists on its board, excusing them from the minimum $75,000 a year contribution expected of other trustees. No artists currently serve on the board.

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