Manhattan gallery director Jeffrey Deitch has apparently be tapped to take over the troubled Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum has been without a director since December 2008, when Jeremy Strick resigned amidst MoCA’s financial problems.
There was some confusion over the official announcement of his appointment, according to the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story. The museum board was supposed to have approve his hiring yesterday, but an announcement was postponed because of a conflict with a mayoral press conference.
A search committee unanimously approved Deitch for the job, a person with knowledge of the situation to The Times.
Deitch, has an MBA from Harvard, which he’ll need to sort out the museum’s troubled finances. The museum’s donations, have fallen sharply during the recession, casting doubts for a time on its survival.
But billionaire and MoCA board co-chair Eli Broad injected $30 million into the the failing museum and helped launch a turnaround. The MoCA has two facilities in downtown Los Angeles, but it’s budget and staff have been slashed dramatically.
Deitch will bring some much needed business acumen to the job. He co-founded Citibank’s art advisory program in 1979. He went on to found Deitch Projects, which opened in 1997 and now includes two galleries in downtown Manhattan and a third in Queens.
He’s known for working artists like Barry McGee and Ryan McGinness. Both are graffiti artists and skateboarders who become big names in the art world. Deitch also represents the estate of late artist Keith Haring, with whom he worked closely in the 1980s, according to the Times.
His appointment raised some eyebrows in the LA art world because he is coming from the private sector. Some have raised concerns about a possible conflict of interest between his private interests and his new role.
But Deitch also has a reputation for spotting emerging trends in contemporary art and has helped paved the way for little known artists to establish themselves through innovative projects that appeal to a younger demographic.
Last year, he allowed artists Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman to transform his gallery into a Gothic warren of rooms populated with gurgling beakers and melting toilets for a piece called “Black Acid Co-op.”
In 2997, Deitch Projects was the scene of a dinner for 100 honoring New York burlesque, which is undergoing a revival. Deitch got in on the act and was a good sport about it, allowing himself to be photographed with two aging beauties.
Now that’s something the MoCA could be doing.