Dealer Jeffrey Deitch Named New Director of MOCA

15Jan10

MOCA's new director, Jeffrey Deitch. Image via The Los Angeles Times.

MOCA has named New York City art dealer Jeffrey Deitch as it’s new director.  It is a controversial and exciting choice because it blurs the line between the academic museum world and commercially driven art market.  Currently, no other major U.S. museum is overseen by a former gallery owner and Mr. Deitch certainly doesn’t fit the typical profile of a museum director from a curatorial or nonprofit background. Having a successful businessman at the helm of a museum that faced a severe financial crisis in 2008 isn’t such a bad idea.

Mr. Deitch studied Art History at Wesleyan and holds an MBA from Harvard.  He co-founded Citibank’s pioneering art advisory service in 1979 and went on to become one of the most successful private dealers in the world.  In addition to running Deitch Projects, he has advised collectors such as David Geffen, Dakis Joannou, and Eli Broad.

Here is what the LA art world is saying about the choice, according to a Los Angeles Timearticle, “MOCA May Go in a New Direction:”

“My immediate response was that there’s no way, it doesn’t make any sense” that a leading dealer like Deitch would give up his business to lead a nonprofit museum, “But the more I think about it, it would be really interesting. He would be able to deal with the politics involved in a job like that. I’d welcome him with open arms.”

– Jeff Poe of LA Gallery Blum & Poe

“Out-of-the-box choices can often be inspired. They can create new kinds of energy…But when they don’t work, they can be disastrous.”

– Collector Dean Valentine

In a separate article in the Los Angeles Times, “MOCA pick:  Bold or Just Biz?” art critic Christopher Knight voiced his skepticism over whether the art market and museum worlds can be combined without a significant conflict of interest:

“There is nothing wrong with a lively and robust art market, but Deitch’s commercial commitments are problematic for his new job…Art commerce gets out-sized press because the public, although generally unfamiliar with and incurious about art, is familiar with and curious about money. In modern capitalism, art and popular culture intersect in the market.  Museums, on the other hand, are places where popular appeal should be irrelevant. Unpopular but potentially revolutionary art ideas need places to be seen, heard and debated. Depth, not breadth, is what matters.”

– Emily Waldorf

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