Museum directors christen Grand Park, defend MOCA *

Zócalo-at-Grand-Park-panel.jpgOn Friday night, Zocalo held its first event outside in the new Grand Park — a co-branded dealie with KCRW. On the panel, Los Angeles Times arts reporter Jori Finkel questioned LAMCA's Michael Govan, the Hammer's Ann Philbin and the Getty's new chief, Timothy Potts, about running a museum today in Los Angeles. There was sympathy for their MOCA colleague, Jeffrey Deitch, who would have a natural include on the panel, if he's facing public crowds these days. They also talked about Hollywood and LA's lagging culture of philanthropy.

Snippet from Zocalo's recap

What, Finkel asked the directors, should MOCA’s next steps be?

Philbin of the Hammer started the conversation by calling the recent “villainizing” surrounding MOCA and, especially, its director, Jeffrey Deitch, unfair. MOCA’s conflicts have deeper roots and cannot be ascribed to one person. Philbin said she hoped “something dramatic” would happen at MOCA—preferably “something wonderful like all the billionaires on the board decide to write very huge checks and save MOCA in a real way.” And while she didn’t offer strategies for the museum or for Deitch, she said that a weakened MOCA is bad for all of the city’s museums.

Govan concurred with Philbin and noted that running a museum is harder than it looks, because museums are part of the public trust and subject to many different opinions about their direction. Ups and downs are inescapable for a contemporary art museum, “which is supposed to mimic the issues, the possibilities of the contemporary.” He doesn’t think the current controversies are the end of MOCA. “All I can say is, there’s a hope for the thrill of the future rise.”

The newcomer among the panelists was the Getty’s Potts, who had been on the job for all of 32 hours. But Potts has enough experience in the museum world—he has headed up the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge in England—to know that certain museum truths apply in any city. For instance, Potts said, it’s normal for museums to depend on the generosity of a small number of people—which often brings abrupt change and rocky periods.

Video on the Zocalo website. The story at Zocalo observes that things will change for LACMA when the subway gets there in 2013. Um, hopefully no one at Zocalo or LACMA actually thinks there will be a new subway anywhere next year...or the year after...or the year after...and so on. See any big holes in the ground? * Updated: The story has been fixed to reflect that Govan said 2019 in his remarks.

Zocalo photo: Jake Fabricius

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