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.

MOCA Fresh Auction 2012

Pae White, Photo Credit: MOCA

So, I get these songs stuck in my head…Every time I think about MOCA’s upcoming Fresh Auction this Saturday, this song pops into my head.  If you were born before 1975 you probably can guess it.  Now that the painfully tragic memory of that song is stuck in YOUR head (you’re welcome), let’s talk about the upcoming auction.

Since my art budget was blown the other day in Santa Monica, I decided to check out the free Preview of the works up for auction this Saturday.  Hundreds of works are beautifully curated and on display at MOCA’s Grand Av location.  There are some AMAZING pieces.

While surveying the lots up for auction I couldn’t help but dream of my fantasy collection (if I had Warren Buffett money, or won the lotto and opened a gallery). So here is my curated selection of works:

Top: Charles Gaines, Bottom: Shepard Fairey

I’ve been following Charles Gaines recently, and was really glad to see one of his works today.  Here’s a closer look:

What I liked about Shepard Fairey’s piece is that it had a Hokusai feel too it.  Very different from what I’m used to seeing from him.

Rena Small, "Mike Kelley for Artist Hands Grid Continuum"

I may be biased now, but after our come up of a Rena Small at Incognito on Saturday, I was thrilled to spot the above piece today.

Cindy Sherman

I really love Cindy Sherman, but after watching PBS’ Art:21 feature on her in the “Transformation” episode, I now absolutely adore this woman as an artist (despite the segment having an excruciatingly painful section of clowns…long story).  I was captivated by her creative process.  I plan to dedicate more to her in future posts.

Robert Rauschenberg
John Baldessari,Three Government Personal
Danny First
Aaron Kraten
Fred Tomaselli
Gary Baseman
Gregory Michael Hernandez
Olga Komondouros, "Elimination"

If you’re at MOCA Grand and looking for a restroom, just look for this piece by Olga Komondouros.  It was strategically placed by the loo… Cheeky. (pun intended.)

Pae White, "Fool's Gold"

That’s a wrap for me.  For more looks at all the Auction, click here.  Let me know what you have your eye on!

Fresh, for twenty-twelve… you suckas! (If you get that reference I am loving you right now)

On Your Marks… Get Set…Go! (Get Some Art) Incognito 2012

PhotoCredit: SMMoA, via Instagram

What do you get when you combine 700 works by 500 artists and a room full of eager collectors?  SMMoA’s “Incognito 2012” delivered yet another exciting evening of art and celebration. All works were donated by the artists as a fundraiser for the Santa Monica Museum of Art at Bergamot Station.  The rules:  Pieces are no bigger than 8 X 10 and all are priced at the same level.  The twist?   The artists are not revealed to the buyer until after purchase, so works by Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Judy Chicago, Gary Baseman, and Shepard Fairey sit alongside those of emerging artists.  The museum encourages guests to trust their instincts.  According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, the idea originated from London’s Royal College of Art and was brought to SMMoA by Elisa Longhauser, the director of the museum.  I first learned about Incognito last year when I visited the  second opportunity sale.

In the world of contemporary art collection the individual who owns the art is just as important as the person who created it.  Incognito obliterates all pretenses relating to artists reputations being enhanced or impacted by who owns their work. Let’s be real though, there are various levels of sponsorship for the event, with some offering many patrons a sneak peek of the work at Precognito held the Thursday before the event.  I worked myself into a fan-girl frenzy when I saw a couple of pictures from Precognito posted by Society News LA the night before Incognito.

I made a positive ID on a piece!!  Whoo hoo, an advantage…

Not so fast.  Entrance to Incognito is kind of like a Southwest queue but based on sponsorship level, so we were in the equivalent of SW’s Group “B” 31-60… (cue the “Price is Right” loser horn)  Consequently, if the well-known artists don’t camouflage their work, the likelihood of it quickly succumbing to the “red dot” is pretty high.

@ Incognito on Saturday. My two sightings (Baseman and Fairey) claimed immediately... Photo Credit: Gary Baseman

This did not deter me and my better half for hatching up shrewd strategies to make the most of the event:  We fortified ourselves with Margaritas.  We agreed we wouldn’t point out pieces.  We surveyed, narrowed our focus on certain sections of the museum hall, divided and conquered.  We even had a code word for when we spotted a piece we absolutely had to have.  With over 700 works on display there were many wonderful selections to choose from.  You do have to move quick.  One lingering look plus a minute of ruminating over the piece and the next thing you know it’s gone.  After this happened to us twice, we quickly decided that instincts have no time for ruminating.

We selected our piece, went out for a bite to eat (we needed a break from the sensory overload and the throngs of eager art collectors fueled by mini burgers, tilapia and yummy Patron pomegranate margaritas) and returned for the big reveal.  When it was all said and done, thanks to my husband’s instincts we are now the proud owners of a Rena Small: my instincts landed us a beautiful piece by Yoichi Kawamura; well worth trading my handbag (or daily latte) budget for the next 2 months…

#687 Rena Small, "Untitled"

In sum, it was a heady mix of So Cal rain, fedoras, hipster glasses, artists, wellies, a nice Simon Baker sighting and overall fabulousness.  I had a great time and I’m looking forward to Incognito 2013.