Posts Tagged ‘New York Times#8217;


A New Boss, and a Jolt of Real-World Expertise

Written on January 21, 2010 by Felicia Appenteng in Arts & Cultures & Societies, Philosophy


As published in the New York Times


When the going gets desperate, the desperate get creative. On Monday the beleaguered Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles named as its new director Jeffrey Deitch, a prominent New York art dealer. This comes less than a week after Bill Moggridge, a prominent industrial designer and businessman, became the first design practitioner to head the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York — an institution thought by many to lack vision.

The Deitch news has of course overshadowed the Moggridge news in the art world, but the appointees are similar in many ways. Both lack experience in museum administration but have plenty of hands-on, real-world experience running businesses, collaborating with other practitioners and making creative things happen in the fields their museums focus on. Each appointment confirms that the other is not an anomaly, and together they represent a kind of wake-up call for museums in general. They point to a return to basics in American museum culture.

Still, it is the choice of Mr. Deitch in particular that has stunned the art world, and not just because art dealers aren't often named to head major museums.

For all the objections that will be raised, some legitimate, it is a brilliant stroke for the Museum of Contemporary Art and may be a harbinger of renewed institutional spirit and will. Less than two years ago, the museum, once the city's premier institution of the new, was in serious crisis. It suddenly found its lunch being eaten by two other local museums that have, within the last two years, been revived by dynamic new directors, Ann Philbin at the Hammer Museum of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Michael Govan at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

These two had galvanized their institutions and their boards, siphoning attention, trustees, art and money away from their competitor. Meanwhile, the Museum of Contemporary Art was in debt and was just surviving by drawing down its endowment. In late 2008, to loud objections from the art-loving public, its board contemplated closing the museum and selling its collection or merging with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The temporary solution was only slightly more palatable: accepting $30 million from Eli Broad, the former chairman of the museum's board.

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