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Los Angeles MOCA Switches on Filling Chief Curator’s Job

Jeffrey Deitch
Jeffrey Deitch, the director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Source: Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art via Bloomberg

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles said it will hire a new chief curator, reversing an earlier decision to leave the post vacant following the resignation of Paul Schimmel in June.

“In the past weeks we have witnessed considerable media attention and criticism directed at MOCA and its leadership, particularly at our director,” the executive committee said in a letter to trustees. The hiring of a new chief curator “will enable us to continue to strengthen this institution with the resources necessary for the director to succeed.”

In 2010, the museum picked New York gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch to become its director. Deitch’s first show highlighted the artistic career of actor Dennis Hopper. Last year’s exhibition of graffiti artists achieved the highest attendance in MOCA’s history, with 201,352 visitors, and total guests doubled to more than 400,000 for the year, the museum said.

The executive committee members, including co-chairmen Maria Arena Bell and David G. Johnson, wrote that they “wanted to ensure we had the necessary financial commitments in place for a special curatorial fund to endow the position.”

Once the funding is in place, the museum will form a committee to identify candidates, according to the letter.

Artists Quit

Tensions at the museum escalated after MOCA announced the resignation of veteran curator Schimmel on June 29. Last month, artist board members John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha announced they were quitting, citing disappointment with the museum’s direction.

Museum employment, at 45 full-time workers, is one-third what it was in 2008, after cuts in departments including curatorial, education and fundraising. The reductions reflect reorganization, attrition and job consolidation, according to Lyn Winter, the museum’s communications director.

“We have an exceptional staff at MOCA, and with the support of the board, our members and the many artists we engage with, we are confident that MOCA is on a sound path,” Deitch wrote in a July 23 letter on the museum’s website.

Schimmel, who has been at the museum for 22 years, earned $259,680 with benefits during the year that ended on June 30, 2011, the most recent period for which data are available. He was the second-highest-paid employee at the museum; Deitch earned $649,621 during the same year.

Muse highlights include Ryan Sutton on dining.

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