On Deitch and LA MoCA


Art, General Culture

If you’re following art blogs I’m sure you have heard about commercial gallerist Jeffrey Deitch getting hired as director by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art - Tyler collects up some responses and reacts to them here. When I heard about LA MoCA’s decision my first reaction was a bit of surprise, and then I was reminded of what we often get to see in the world of Washington politics.

I’m wondering how Deitch being director of LA MoCA does not open the doors to a potentially huge set of conflicts of interest. A commercial dealer obviously has very different priorities than the director of LA MoCA. This is where things might get pretty iffy, especially if (that, of course, is a big if, and I’m not implying in any way that this is going to happen) in a few years Deitch decides to step down as director of LA MoCA to become a private dealer again. He could then end up in the situation where he would trade the very same artists he might have promoted as director of LA MoCA, thus benefiting from decisions he made earlier… See where this is going? If LA MoCA was a commercial gallery, there would be nothing wrong with it. But LA MoCA is not, it’s a non-profit; and the focus of a non-profit is very different from that of a for-profit organization.

You could compare this situation with what we see in Washington politics, where people move between the worlds of politics and lobbying freely. A lobbyist for health-care providers obviously has very different ideas of what needs to be done than - at least on paper - a Cabinet secretary in charge of health care (who is supposed to be serving the public good, and not special interests). It is exactly those kinds of situations that have resulted in some of the most appalling problems in Washington politics.

I know the analogy is not ideal and I we don’t know what is going to happen at LA MoCA over the next years. But I have very big reservations about this appointment. Given there are lots of smart bloggers out there, I’m sure someone will tell me why my worries are unfounded. I’m curious to learn why.

Update: Tyler Green speaks with Jeffrey Deitch about all of this and way more here: part 1, part 2, part 3