Deitch Moving On — To the East Side?
The Museum of Contemporary Art has formed a search committee for a new director to replace Jeffrey Deitch, sources tell B.L.A.T.C.. Deitch, meanwhile, has reportedly been on a search himself in recent weeks – for both an apartment and a gallery space on New York’s Upper East Side. Whether leaving on his own accord or pushed out remains unclear, but it can’t much matter anymore to the self-described “embattled” director.
At least one potential member of the search committee received a personal request by phone from Eli Broad, thus ending speculation (or perhaps wishful thinking) that Broad had enough going on elsewhere – such as at his own museum going up across the street — to now leave MOCA to its own devices. But the board has not shown itself to be particularly deft on or off the phone, and Mr. Broad is not prone to leave any institution that has benefited from his generosity to its own devices, however capable.
MOCA staffers – what’s left of them at any rate – are said to have been informed of Deitch’s impending departure on Friday. A public announcement is expected any day, one that may include news of at least one other departure, that of a prominent Trustee.
One source who would go on the record is Gary Garrels, Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA, who noted that from what he had heard, the MOCA board plans to continue the museum as an independent institution and hopes to raise their stated goal of $100 million by the end of the year.
But as difficult a task, said Garrels, might be rebuilding MOCA’s staff, which has been greatly reduced over the past few years. Only two curators remain, the publications department is no more and “the development department has been ravaged. Whoever comes in is going to basically have to rebuild the entire institution. It’s not just about shifting or somehow remolding the exhibition program, and it’s not just about rebuilding the endowment. At this point it’s about rebuilding the entire institution internally, because it’s been so devastated.”
Garrels, who noted how difficult it was to replace three staff members in his department at SFMOMA, added, “I don’t envy anyone coming in who has to rebuild an entire staff – that takes a lot of wherewithal to do.”
When I wrote about Deitch’s arrival at MOCA in January of 2010, Garrels then praised the former New York dealer: “Jeffrey’s incredibly energetic and visionary. He’s very bright, imaginative, passionate, and he’s committed to contemporary art. He’ll inject vibrant new life into the institution, and he’ll contribute strongly to Los Angeles as a lively, contemporary creative center.”
But Garrels also had some worries at the time, saying that Deitch “is very good working one-on-one with powerful collectors, but the chemistry changes when you’re working with a group. Museums are complicated places. He needs a strong team helping him to learn the ropes — he has a lot to learn very quickly.”
Deitch and Broad
Today, Garrels says he feels much the same about Deitch and MOCA as he did in 2010. “But like many others I did not foresee how dramatically the lack of institutional experience would affect how things have turned out.”
— Tom Christie
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