It seems inevitable. Instead of concentrating on the ‘Right Here-Right Now’ creative landscape, the art matrix get swallowed by Board votes, a pedestrian public and the antiquation of large institutions in general. Although MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) boasts the largest Post-World War II collection of modern art, the “C” still stands for Contemporary and it is what is Contemporary which has been lost. The museum certainly houses some of the most important modern art and 20th Century treasures (works by Jasper Johns, Willem DeKooning, Dian Arbus, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenburg, Mark Rothko and much, much more), however, we have moved into the 21st Century and what was Contemporary is now certainly neo-classical. To be exact, try buying a Rothko or a Pollock and see what that sets you back. Perhaps the price of a small DiVinci, or a Manet. It takes years to condition an audience to accept the abstract, however cognitive repetition, exotic collectors, and museum-like “priceless” prices all contribute to transforming what was once contemporary or modern into classical, in this case, neo-classical. So as the world evolves, MOCA had to. MOCA faced what was beyond a financial crisis in 2008; the museum had depleted its war chest, needing Founder Eli Broad to save what essentially was in (large) part his baby to begin with. Broad donated $30 million to resurrect MOCA. All evidence pointed to public apathy in regards to MOCA, or more appropriately, the proverbial Darwinian argument: Survival of the Fittest. Is it not true that two of the more hyperbolic, pertinent and pervasive art movements since the Impressionist or Expressionist movements — that being the Street Art and Pop Surrealist movements — out-muscled MOCA?
With an explosion featuring artists, collectors and local galleries, the art market since 2000 reflected the housing market: rich value, lots of risk, explosion of prices and buying frenzies engineered by the “mortgage brokers” of the art world — the local Gallery Dealers (some crooked and inexperienced, just like the college dropout get-rich-quick Mortgage Broker phenomenon). That being said, the eyes, ears, attention and emotion were parked in downtown alleys, East Village store fronts, Culver City “renovation/rejuvenation” developments or on the back of electric boxes and abandoned billboards — not on MOCA walls. In 2002, the Gallery business was a great business, certainly if you had access to local talent and patrons willing to buy. These galleries were home to young, blossoming talent, emerging art superstars and the pack leaders of Street Art and the Pop Surrealist army. Physics and logic dictate that bodies cannot be in two determined and defined places at once. Score: Local Galleries 1 – MOCA 0.
Not all gallery owners reflected the “Wild West” fire sale and Ebay-flipping art mentality. Certainly there are capable Mavericks in the business. Gallery owners who shaped the art world and ushered in relevant and discussion-worthy Modern Art. Jeffrey Deitch is such individual. Deitch, a former art major and eventual Harvard Grad MBA was champion to Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Jean Michel Basquiat and has championed a wide range of artists including Barry McGee, SWOON, Shepard Fairey (albeit post-Obama “HOPE” hype), Michel Gondry, Warren Fischer (one half of Fischerspooner, Fischer has a jingle featured on Deitch’s gallery site), Jeremy Scott and many more. So if Deitch is the ringmaster equivalent or “name of names” in what is now “Contemporary Art”, it makes logical sense that he would be appointed the new Director of MOCA — which he was this past Monday. Still, somewhat of a far-stretching invitation being he is certainly the first gallery owner to become a Museum Director. Perhaps this too is symbolic of an antiquated system being modernized, and more importantly directed by relevance. And starting June 5th 2010, Jeffrey Deitch will take his post as Director of MOCA. As a result Deitch is giving up his commercial business (Deitch Project, his gallery in NYC’s West Village) and undoubtedly will take a substantial pay cut in accepting his new post.
This is the kind of new blood that MOCA has been needing for sometime now, and I for one am excited to see what Jeffrey Deitch brings to this jewel of a museum which is precious and a privelege to have in Los Angeles. Go buy a membership and participate in what will become classics in the years to come.