Back to the Future with MOCA

If you live in LA and appreciate Contemporary Art you are likely following the Schimmel/MOCA melodrama that is now being called “Schimmelgate”.  A resignation of this nature doesn’t happen without some people having something to say about it, so In the weeks following the announcement, we have had numerous interested parties weigh in on the issue.  Eli Broad decided to provide a historical context in his defense of MOCA and Jeffrey Deitch by using a business rationale in his Op-Ed piece in the Times on Saturday.

Then early this week a story surfaced about MOCA’s planned Disco Retrospective called “Fire in the Disco”.  Timing is everything.  When the art community is embroiled in a debate over the future of your institution, announcing an exhibit on Disco is either wildly brazen or naively suspect.  By mid-week I found myself engrossed in New York’s take on the whole situation, and I shared my tin-foil hat hypothesis on MOCA and Grand Avenue in comments on this blog post by Edward Winkleman.

Amid the chatter about the curatorial integrity of the museum, this morning we get a glimpse of the behind the scenes bifurcation of MOCA’s board of trustees in this letter from 4 trustees denouncing Broad, Deitch and the departure of Schimmel.  The dust barely settled on that bomb when the second one hit.  Artist John Baldessari resigned from the board in protest over Schimmel’s departure, bringing the total trustee resignations to 5.

The organizational schisms and dysfunction coming to the surface now should have been eliminated during the last board shake up in 2008.  At that time the museum’s endowment was depleted and Broad eventually offered MOCA a bail out.  Interesting how all roads lead to (and rhyme with) Broad.  In fact, a L.A. Weekly blog ran a piece on him today. When asked about his label as a Venture Philanthropist, Broad responded, “Yes. I believe in venture philanthropy. We don’t just do things that people come to us with requests for. There are things we believe ought to happen and we help make them happen”.

It’s a thorny issue indeed.  I agree with and ascribe to Broad’s business insights, however I think that the board of trustees must have a diverse representation in background and thought.  A myopic focus on the bottom line may prove to be a good business tactic, but not necessarily a viable survival strategy that will allow MOCA to sustain it’s reputation as a world class institution.  Well, until all this is sorted out I think I’ll set my flux capacitor to 25 years from now and maybe the board of trustees will have straightened this mess out by then.

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