Embattled MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch sat down with the LA Times' Reed Johnson on Friday to give his side of the past month's turmoil at his museum. Deitch "vigorously defended his two-year record of exhibitions and programming" and rejected both the notion that MOCA is foundering and increasingly be controlled by Eli Broad. Here's a highlight of the interview:
"It is fantastic for this museum that Eli's building his building across the street. We need more critical mass here," Deitch said, referring to the Broad Collection, now under construction on Grand Avenue, which will house the philanthropist's vast personal art collection. It is scheduled to open in 2014.
Deitch said he believed that the opening of Broad's museum could help elevate MOCA's attendance "by 50% or more."
Deitch also insisted that he now has the full support both of what he called the "core" of MOCA's board and of the museum's staff.
Meanwhile: New York Times critic Roberta Smith checks in on the MOCA situation and writes that Deitch, who she supported for the job, has made errors in judgement and other missteps. But, Smith writes, "it is much too simplistic to blame Mr. Deitch alone for the air of crisis that now surrounds the museum." Smith also observes that "maybe two out of three isn't bad."
Los Angeles has gotten two quite effective museum directors from New York. Ann Philbin went from the Drawing Center to head the Hammer Museum. Michael Govan went from the Dia Art Foundation to become director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Both seem to be doing swimmingly.
But a much rougher time is being had by the third, Jeffrey Deitch, who closed his SoHo gallery in the spring of 2010 to become director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, an institution with an enviable curatorial record but historically plagued by financial problems. Criticism about his tenure has been constant, but has intensified over the last three and a half weeks...
Mr. Deitch's tenure as director has so far been a disappointment even to the people who thought it was a feasible idea in the first place, of whom I was one.
I considered it "a brilliant stroke," I wrote at the time, calling it an example of a museum thinking outside the box, and also an appropriately desperate measure for desperate times.
* Added: Lee Rosenbaum calls Smith's piece " well meaning but illogical."
File photo of Deitch: New York Times Magazine