Monday, January 11, 2010

Deitch @ MoCA

UPDATE: Word's out. It's official. Jeffrey Deitch has been named the new director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

UPDATE II: I've been called out for Godwin's Law abuse in this thread, which is, I'll admit, fair enough. I'll simply reiterate that I wrote my less snarky thoughts over at AWS and used this thread to dump my baser responses to the notion that someone is unqualified to be a museum director because of the taint of commercial endeavors.

I've penned a longer (less snarky) post over at
Art World Salon about this, but in general I seriously don't understand something.

In a world in which being an alleged drug abuser who ran every company your family managed to give you into the ground doesn't automatically disqualify you from becoming President of the United States and being a member of the Nazi Youth organization doesn't automatically disqualify you from becoming the Pope, why does being a small business owner who puts his money where his vision is in supporting artists automatically disqualify you from becoming a museum director?

The notion that commercial art dealers are somehow too soiled to run the sorts of institutions that have long histories of smuggling objects across international borders, resisting returning Nazi-looted works, and using their prestige to inflate the value of the collections (and egos) of selected trustees is symptomatic of a wholly irrational romanticism (not to mention willful blindness) in the art world, in my opinion.

The only valid question about Mr. Deitch's candidacy are his real-world qualifications compared with those of the other candidates. He is NOT, to my mind, ineligible simply because of the most recent profession in his long career of doing exemplary work in whatever he tried.

As I noted, I've posted a more thoughtful response to the rumor that Jeffrey Deitch is poised to be named the director of MoCA over at AWS, but feel free to share your thoughts about it via the transom there or here.

Labels: art museums, gallery business models


Blogger Brent said...

This type of insanity will continue as long as people continue to shoehorn each other into silos "artist" "curator" "collector" "gallerist" and so on.

Also, I think expectations and standards of personal "purity" (whatever than means) has eliminated a lot of talented people who would discharge their offices and jobs in an honest and forthright manner.

(And this also begs the question of how can one redeem him or herself if one is besmirched? We know for actors and celebrity types - rampant drug abuse is forgiven by rehab; "sex addition" treatment for infidelity (includes politicians up to the governor level), and if one wants to be President a conversion to born-again status seems to do the trick)

1/11/2010 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

But that's kind of my point Brent. Being an art dealer isn't parallel to rampant drug abuse or infidelity. It's an honorable profession (with a few high-profile exceptions, like in any other field) that gets painted as somehow unworthy in comparison with other art world professions that are actually in many ways far more regularly on the wrong end of ethical matters. People project all manner of ridiculous behaviors onto "all" art dealers (truly, in a comment thread on a major newspaper the other know, the kind of comment thread that is supposedly monitored to weed out inflammatory statements...someone wrote "all art dealers lie"). Screw them, I say.

(OK, so all art dealers talk like drunken sailors, but we don't all least no more than any other humans on the planet).

1/11/2010 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...


next time you read/hear "all art dealers lie"
think "down to sleep"

...for some reason money and art is still considered as like mixing oil and water. it's the money as being somehow tainted in the art world that is the stereotype being bantered around.

1/11/2010 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger words in a line said...

There is a larger cultural phenomena here than just the art world's beliefs.

A number of years ago I noticed that, if, in a movie, play, book, tv show there was an art dealer character, the art dealer would be dead in the first act or he did it.
I have art dealer friends and family so I am pointing this out in hopes of finding example that contradict my observation.

1/11/2010 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Joanne Mattera said...

As an artist who also writes and occasionally curates, I'm all for fluidity in the art world. Why think inside the box?

But I this comment, taken from your Art World Salon post, raises an important issue: "Hugh Davies, director of San Diego's Museum of Contemporary Art, predicted that if Deitch, who is in his late 50s, was the choice, he would face skepticism or worse about his move from the commercial end of the art world, championing the work of Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, to museum work."

I do want more from any museum than Koons, Basquiat and Haring. I want more from any museum than 95% (pale) penis people, which is what we have now--even from (most) female curators.

So my question is: Can Deitch, or any other candidate, see beyond the, uh, samo samo to develop a vision for the 21st century in which talent of all colors and sexes is recognized, hierarchies be damned?

P.S. Some of my best friends are pale penis people, so no offense intended.

1/11/2010 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I can think of several angles on this.

One is the career path - Museum Directors are supposed to be scholarly - but in these pluralistic times having a Phd doesn't mean you understand the contemporary art scene - it's too large and even Deitch only sees a narrow slice of it. SO do you go with the taxonomic rigour of the academic, or the magpie eye of the man on the street?

Because Deitch is knowledgeable but I doubt he has the erudition of Thomas Hoving, ringmaster extraordinaire? Or is that also an illusion?

Eli Broad should not be making these kinds of decisions, money or no. On what authority?

Beyond the snobbery of academic pedigree, we can also point to the issue of vision - too narrow or too broad. Eli that is.

Deitch would be great for LA - he's made a career of marketing (branding) youth culture and street while at the same time indulging his tastes for transgender performance spectacles.

His brand of spectacle would do well in California as well. I'm not being snarky here. There is a difference between the rather puritanical/calvinist New England "conceptualism" and the Californian new age visual bacchanal.

If Christian Viveros Faune can return to the Village Voice after soiling his hands in the Humbolt Counties of the upper Volta, I see no reason Deitch, a known quantity, shouldn't be tapped to further the fine art brand he helped monetize.

No, I don't claim to fathom the internecine machiavellian workings of the market driven museum world, but I do know Deitch fits right in, and more power to him. Really. And Viveros Faune too! But they aren't the only voices out there, nor should they be. Surely museums give their curators the freedom to curate idiosyncratic visions with their razor sharp appendages?

I do wonder if the LA times is up to the task of policing whomever becomes the new Czar. What about that Lars Nittve? Is he as unctuous as that much lauded Klaus Biesenbach fellow appears?

1/11/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Billy Talley said...

I haven't talked anyone here yet, I just caught the news on Gawker and now on your site. It isn't hard to imagine that everyone in Los Angeles will greet the news of Dietch coming to MoCA quite positively. There was a moment when it was possible that we would have lost MoCA without the intervention of Broad, and after that the question of their (Jeremy Strick's) ability to raise financial support loomed large. As for the conflict of interest issue, Schimmel crossed the line long ago and MoCa led the way in co-opting local collector energy into support for the museum. Becoming proactive as MoCA did in representing the movement of contemporary art, they morphed into something that resembles market manipulation and insider trading... this, a topic few of us in the art world prefer to even think of, or talk openly about if we did. Ed, you're quite right about the pot and kettle issue here.

Ultimately, Dietch's test will be his ability to shore up the fundraising ability of the museum. And along the way, he might just shake things up and we might see some interesting curation flower again from that institution.

The wider issue is the bias against the marketplace, a point of view that is shored up quite nicely by academia, a world totally configured by Marxist critique. The world of ideas is bigger than that, and a path further down this blinkered approach will lead us all into a hardheaded dead end. Will academia dig in and double down... or will we see an expansion of ideas in art theory that finally incorporates the long and storied legacy of the free market? I don't see any curriculum adding Adam Smith and Hayek to Critical Theory anytime soon.

1/11/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

Good points, Ed. The conflict of interest issue is the main obstacle I see, not the fact that JD has sullied himself in the commercial art world. And, as someone pointed out on FB (I forget who), the appointment, if it happens, is director, not curator, so a business background is not so inappropriate. Also, there was the precedent of Walter Hopps, of Ferus gallery, who went on to become a curator (and maybe director?) of museums.

1/11/2010 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Mery Lynn said...

Revolving doors may be inevitable, but rules do need to be instituted to protect the institution from the greed and self-serving instincts of the individuals within it. I don't direct this specifically at Deitch whose knowledge of contemporary art is very impressive. The situation is more like deaccessioning - there need to be rules to protect the long term health of the institution from short term goals.

Revolving doors at the Departments of Defense and Treasury may be necessary to garner the required expertise and connections, but without rules the musical chairs aspect undermines the integrity of the departments and encourages insider trading.

If Deitch is in fact the next director of MOCA, I do hope there will be considerable transparency about how he is extricating himself from his commercial concerns. I would expect the same thing in any non-profit or governmental position.

1/11/2010 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

As Brent expressed, I'd be more interested in comparing ideologies and track records than professional titles, which so often are honorary euphemisms.

Im hoping "words in a line" will give us a list of movies where art dealers die - so far I am unsuccessful in finding one, real or fictive.

Im also wondering if tanning beds would solve a lot of emotional problems at the expense of orange skin.

To sum up:

Marxists are often more philosophical than the pedantic practicality of proud capitalists. But Marxism, like philosophy, without context is like handing a kid a bomb and telling them to swallow it. Most schools serve up watered down gruel when it comes to ideological discussion.

How many art students realize how defeatist Marxist ideology is when combined with rugged individualism and frustrated careers?

Show the children paradise before you send them to the trenches. Will Deitch corrupt the youth? In my experience corruption starts at home and not at the office.

1/11/2010 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

I think there’s an interesting point to this no one has mentioned. What happens to Dietch Projects and all their represented artists? This would throw a lot of pretty well known young artists into the streets. Would there be some kind of “trust” set up to manage things if Deitch is appointed?

I’ve been watching the Project’s exhibitions for years and their productions have been in many cases “museum quality”, Black Acid and Chris Johansen being just a couple of examples that come to mind.

Do museums have such imperialistic power that one simply drops their professional and business obligations at their bidding? Or, were there commercial concerns that haven’t come out yet?

1/11/2010 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

Deitch's celebrity status and financial acumen are all good here; the only real problem, as I see it, is with the conflicts of interest regarding his former artists (and it's now Monday evening, and we have it that Deitch is indeed the next MOCA director): doesn't this put former Deitch Projects artists at a great disadvantage for, say, potential acquisitions at MOCA? People will be watching this like hawks. How might this move hurt them?

1/11/2010 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

Ed - I do see your point - but it seems outright scandal is easier overcome than preconceptions which is what I tried clumsily to say.

If there was only a rehab for the commercial end of art ... ?

(And yes, Joanne, I agree - but I'll put it this way: People talk of a crisis of art criticism, I'd say there is a crisis in curating! They could use smart commercial-background in the curating.)

1/11/2010 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alluded to above by Oriane, Kalm, and Joy it is indeed the conflict of interest that should disqualify him, in theory.

Is he going to close his gallery? If so, then I'd say it's ok for him to take the helm. If not, absolutely not.

If he does shut its doors and give back the art to the artists it should be fine. Of course he'd still stand to have his own collection's value skyrocket should he give his former artist's shows, though, so again it's tricky.

The art world scratches each other's backs just like the real world - nothing new about that. What is new here is a man with what I'd imagine to be a significant collection. I guess we'll see.

1/11/2010 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It never occurred to me that he would try to keep his gallery running at the same time...where would he find the hours in a day??

If that's what folks mean when they worry about a conflict of interest, I suspect it will be quickly put to rest. If he closes the gallery, then I conflict...just a world of insights few other museum directors have and a very interesting experiment. I think it's daring, and I understand the folks suggesting what MoCA needs is less risk and more security, but's a new decade...I'm gonna assume the board discussed all this in depth with Mr. Deitch and liked his answers.

1/11/2010 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

I just read the post on MAN, which includes this belabored distinction: "Deitch is not being hired to be a 'business executive,' he's being hired to be a non-profit executive". Hmm: there is really nothing especially "non-profit" about non-profits. Museum directors have long ranged from robber-baron scoundrels (Cisneros) to well-educated socialites (Hoving; de Montebello) to commercially-minded and aggressive businessmen (Krens). The oft-touted and rather forced distinction between non-profits and commercial galleries is a bit of an old saw; it's naive to think there is a bright line that can be drawn here. What's worrying me (still) is how Deitch will negotiate the closing of his gallery and those interests and relationships: the conflict of interest of one who once vigorously promoted the careers of his own stable of artists over others, and who must now preside over the possible inclusion -- or exclusion -- of those very same artists in MOCA's collection, for example. Sorry to harp. Obviously I'm thinking from one specific pov.

1/11/2010 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

MOCA = Museum of Contemporary Art, Contemporary art, not Modern art. It's the LA equivalent of the New Museum, it had the same rag tag startup, funky teenage years and is now coming into it's own as one of the major US venues for Contemporary Art.

Candidates without some appearance of conflict of interest are snoozers and are NOT FIT to be the director of a museum like MOCA.

The position of director requires more time and experience for fund raising activities than curatorial activities. Deitch seems to be especially qualified on the financial side which is what MOCA needs. There are plenty of curators to handle the scholarly issues and MOCA needs to survive above all else.

So, YAY!

1/11/2010 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

So far this has been a big echo chamber - everyone is pretty much reiterating what Gawker (via flavorpill editor) wrote (I read just now) - gamechanger

The dilema is an old one - How can you double dip without despotism?

What is a level playing field?

Do we value art made from adversity more than art made from privilege? Or do we say adversity has nothing to do with quality?

If art is not qualitatively affected by adversity (mental or otherwise) then what is the point of William Powhida's "internal criticality" (note: was Yves Tanguy's self destructing automaton at the MOMA "internally critical" or was it merely modernist "self reflexivity" or are these two terms interchangeable?)

Finally, what is to become of us if criticality is not important anymore (as much of Deitch's celebratory (festivalist) project seems to point to? The failure of Marxism?

If function is the only criticism, what should art do? Serve Deitch? To serve man!

1/11/2010 08:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

zipthwung - that's Jean Tinguely - not Tanguy. The piece is called Homage to New York. It's hard to take seriously the opinions of one who doesn't actually know the history of subject matter in question.

1/11/2010 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Dance with the Devil
Devil don't change
The Devil changes You...

The Question is which will be the Devil... ;->

1/12/2010 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gladys Grimaldi said...

Are any of you an artist, art student, or have you worked for a museum/art festival? I've done all of these things, and I am telling you: it is a SAD DAY for the art world. Already art dealers have done their best to hype up what they consider 'good investments' with practically no basis in academic or social context, advising superwealthy collectors looking for 'culture' and 'good taste' to buy what is 'hot,' to flood the art world with irrelevant schlock for the sole purpose of banking on artists and trends!
And now Mr. Deitch, who has been very successful at driving the machine, is head of a bankrupt non-profit museum. Who should have been chosen to take the realm? Certainly not Lars Nittve, the former director of Tate Modern! I mean, surely Deitch knows more about directing museums than the director of one of the best and biggest modern art museums in the world!
Deitch got his start counseling Citibank execs on art purchases - if he made his advisements based on cultural, contextual, artistic value over sole investment worth, then I could see him directing a museum. If anyone thinks this is a career shift for him, you'd be wrong. It's just a notable gig to add to a dealer's resume. Once he steps down from this position and goes back to his business schemes, MOCA will be for the worse and so will the entire museum system.

1/12/2010 02:08:00 AM  
Blogger no-where-man said...

The sun is setting on the days of individual museum patronship. Most shows rely on a level of corporate sponsorship and events for funding. Museums are a business with heating bills and employees to feed.

We are in the era of spectacle. I experienced the openings / performances at his galleries to be wall to wall packed and full of energy.

Terms like "Nazi" and "drug user" come off as a little dogmatic, judgmental and conservative for the NYC Artworld - no?

I agree his "Projects" most often were Museum quality on scale and ambition. His writing forward thinking and insightful and he was always the benevolent host.

There will be a Pop void in NYC and a lift for LA.

1/12/2010 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Terms like "Nazi" and "drug user" come off as a little dogmatic, judgmental and conservative for the NYC Artworld - no?

As noted in the second update above, yes...

1/12/2010 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

Wow it's been a long time since I read a no-where-man comment.

NWM, where have you been?

1/12/2010 08:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I've been waiting for this to materialize into fact before commenting on it. To my chagrin, it has. I've been saying for years, now, that contemporary art museums are corporatist undertakings that exist for the purpose of laundering art-world reputations, so that the concerned players can sell art for more money. They bring in academics from the most dubious and tendentious field of the humanities - contemporary art history - to put a veneer of scholasticism on the swindle, and then foist it as a nonprofit enterprise so as to avoid taxes, garner institutional-level grants, and accept donations.

This was already proven beyond all doubt by the New Museum and Dakis Jouannou, whose actions were not so much aberrant as conducted without the customary behind-the-scenes discretion. The Deitch appointment simply reconfirms it. With scholarship effectively gutted by theory, and criticism reduced to trendspotting, the superrich collectors have figured out that they're running the show and are free to operate without accounting for basic ethics.

1/12/2010 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm can't parse out of that whether the offense you mind the most is the public funding or the attempt to contextualize contemporary art in historical terms, even though that history is a work in progress, Franklin.

1/12/2010 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Both are offensive for their own reasons. I wouldn't call that history a "work in progress" - I'd call it a put-up job. I'm looking forward to Kristin Baker's imminent solo show at MOCA, which will characterize her as one of the most important painters of her generation. After all, the New Museum was absolutely unapologetic about allowing itself to be turned into a vanity museum, called Jouannou's collection "one of the finest and most original... in the world," and Koons "one of the most important artists of the last quarter century." Welcome to the new business as usual: The art world as envisioned by the übercollectors is the very picture of creative triumph and the culmination of history because fuck you is why.

1/12/2010 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Let me rephrase...are you saying that contemporary art cannot be contextualized in historical terms?

1/12/2010 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be careful who you sell your soul to...the price could be very high.

1/12/2010 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Be careful who you sell your soul to...the price could be very high.

Be careful offering up platitudes...the interpretation could be very different from your intent.

In other words, more specifics, please.

1/12/2010 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

are you saying that contemporary art cannot be contextualized in historical terms?

You can regard contemporary art according to any terms you like, I suppose. As an academic pursuit, though, contemporary art history is an indoctrinaiton into a worldview that regards truth as local, temporary, and socially constructed. People who excel in that environment are capable of any iniquity short of bloodshed. It's no accident that they end up as the art world's official apologists.

1/12/2010 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

People who excel in that environment are capable of any iniquity short of bloodshed

Perhaps they're capable to trying to examine any iniquity short of bloodshed with an open mind, but that hardly means they're capable of performing them might want to paint that picture with a slightly more narrow brush, no?

1/12/2010 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger no-where-man said...

Hi Cap,
I got a Technical Director gig and have been putting in long hours. Its great - lots of travel, building video labs and working with great programing / events.

I have been keeping up reading about the Artworld with out much to say.

This topic hits a nerve for me. I am a big fan of JD. Actually he has done a few projects with my company, I am impressed with what I hear of him.

Maybe I am being naive but after spending 5 years in back end of Museums and watching thier struggles and almost 8 now in the Corporate world I think he is a good thing.

1/12/2010 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed Says-

"Being an art dealer isn't parallel to rampant drug abuse or infidelity. It's an honorable profession (with a few high-profile exceptions, like in any other field) that gets painted as somehow unworthy in comparison with other art world professions "

True. But part of the job description of an art dealer, at least a successful one, is increasing (inflating?) the market value of your artists' work - which can come across as less than earnest or scholarly. However if one gets into the business for the right reasons, and truly believes in the artists one promotes (and pays them when work gets sold!), then your reputation will remain intact.

1/12/2010 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

But part of the job description of an art dealer, at least a successful one, is increasing (inflating?) the market value of your artists' work

Not correct. That's the job of auction houses. The job of an art dealer is to present and hopefully convince critics, curators, and collectors of the importance of the work. Dealers work to secure fair market prices for their artists work (and are fools to inflate those prices prematurely), but you do that in conjunction with efforts to justify it historically.

1/12/2010 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

just re-read that...needs a correction. Dealers are fools to inflate their artist's prices ever, prematurely or otherwise.

1/12/2010 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said... might want to paint that picture with a slightly more narrow brush, no?

Not this morning, no. I've been personally harmed by these people, and the Deitch appointment fits my anecdotes into a larger universe of moral insolvency. The art world is becoming increasingly pathetic and sickening, and to be perfectly honest I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to convince myself to stay in it.

1/12/2010 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The "art world" is actually an umbrella term for many individualized ways of interacting as an artist or art lover in a social context. Everything else is a job in the art industry.

Yes, there's a glamorized section of that umbrella context that passes as "it" (based on quantifiable numbers of photos of mentions in the press), but history rarely proves very much of "it" to be important.

If having your ego massaged in the spotlight of "it" is your goal (and I know plenty for artists for whom it is), then, well, you might need to let that dream go (or not...your call). If making your art as well as you can make it, and letting history do the rest is tolerable, then nothing has changed.

The art industry is trudging along, a bit battle-weary, as it relies on disposable income and who has much of that any more, but the "art world" is a construct, and yours to rule as much as anyone else's, based on how you play that game or change the rules of it.

1/12/2010 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Ed, I applaud your lucid rendition and argue with none of it. I just want to point out here that over the last several months, it has become clear that the rules of that game were even nastier than what the hardened cynics had been saying about it as long I've been studying the art world. I am wondering for the first time whether mere association with the contemporary museum system is itself a discredit. Push has really come to shove here.

1/12/2010 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Anonymous said...

zipthwung - that's Jean Tinguely - not Tanguy. The piece is called Homage to New York. It's hard to take seriously the opinions of one who doesn't actually know the history of subject matter in question."

I also put Replacements when I meant Residents no one corrected me on that I guess the Residents aren't visual art or something. Why is it I can remember images and sounds and not words? What an idiot I am!

How about addressing my points?

One of them being that the traditional career path of a museum person is through academia - though I suppose an MBA is fine for collecting art for Citibank or raising funds for MOCA.

Christopher Knight at the LA Times Twittered that this might ruffle a few feathers - but MAN at Modern Art Notes interviewed Deitch and he says no, people will just have to examine the precedent for the unprecedented. That's what I am goign to do. Lead by example Deitch, show us what Samo is.

And besides, I know plenty of artists who couldn't tell you much about Tinguley other than that he is the "exploding machine guy" - if that! Can Deitch tell us who the first artist to deal with transhumanism is? WIll he be more scholarly than this pastiche?


1/12/2010 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Also - Deitch said in the interview

"The art world also takes a kind of 'ownership interest' in any kind of public program, so people who visit exhibitions at my gallery feel free to make public comments and give their suggestions. So I've been working in the public arena for many years."

The idea being that people feel "ownership" of stuff that is "private" - the negative implication being that public discourse can cause brand erosion - what an elitist!

The possitive implication being that his new gift shop concept will catapult MOCA into new realms of profitability. I look forward to Barry McGee t-shirts and thongs.

1/12/2010 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

Most of the time in most cases, people are honest and try their darnedest to do right by their customers, vendors, relationships. A few are scoundrels, but it is far too easy to go out of business if you make it a practice to rip people off because you destroy the source of your livelihood - your relationships.

A far greater source of disappointment and bitterness in life is unrealistic expectations, not people being scoundrels.

1/12/2010 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Gladys Grimaldi said...

For Brent:
"A far greater source of disappointment and bitterness in life is unrealistic expectations, not people being scoundrels."

Quite the generalization in a chicken or the egg form! Are people disappointed and bitter because of the systems that scoundrels (in power) have put in place, or do scoundrels ruin the livelihoods of people because people naturally have unrealistic expectations and need scapegoats?

If you're actually making the argument that Deitch has been an 'honest' and has been 'doing right' in business because he couldn't have stayed in business long enough to rip enough people off, I think you're stretching the idea of 'honesty' a bit too far. Some of his shows include collaborations with Dash Snow, Fischerspooner, James Franco??

"This type of insanity will continue as long as people continue to shoehorn each other into silos "artist" "curator" "collector" "gallerist" and so on.

No, this type of insanity will continue as long as flamboyant gay gallerists with "outrageous" antics get put in a position of public power.

"Also, I think expectations and standards of personal "purity" (whatever than means) has eliminated a lot of talented people who would discharge their offices and jobs in an honest and forthright manner. "

There isn't a relativist way of looking at personal "purity". Purity in art is keeping independent, for-profit art dealers out of the general public art collective. It's not selling your soul in order to gain access to wealthier patrons (hello MOCA!) Museums have a responsibility to not be driven by hype and trends in the fly-by-night Damien Hirst-Koons-Dash Snow vein. I mean, I like Keith Haring as much as the next guy but I hardly think he was one of the "most important artists of our time" as false prophets such as Deitch like to claim.

And the differences between "artist", "curator", "collector", and "gallerist" are vast. If you are none of these things, you might not be able to tell the difference. But being an artist is nowhere even near being a collector or gallerist or even curator. And working for a museum naturally disqualifies you for being a collector and gallerist. It's as complex as government, and now there are just as few lines between big business and legislation/history making.

1/12/2010 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger J. Wesley Brown said...

@Zipthwung -

"How about addressing my points?

One of them being that the traditional career path of a museum person is through academia - though I suppose an MBA is fine for collecting art for Citibank or raising funds for MOCA."

I'm an artist but I have an MBA and my day job is as a financial analyst for one of the other major LA museums. While I do think there may be some dangerous conflict of interest issues here, the primary job of the director is to yes, raise money and yes, run a complex organization, and to yes, oversee the curators' choices also. He has an art background qualifying him for that last important one but he also has executive experience, which will allow him to excel at the first two.

The "traditional career path" is quite varied here. We have a CFO, accountants, IT people, operations people, educators, marketing people, carpenters, painters, electricians etc., ALL of us working daily to run the museum smoothly and accomplish it's mission.

The first rule of being a good executive is to surround yourself with a great team that complements you and enhances where you have weaknesses.

Can he tell us "who the first artist to deal with transhumanism is?" Maybe and maybe not, but I bet you his curators sure can and will.

PS> No matter how successful his gift shop is (ours is a money-losing operation) its profits would be a pittance compared to the rest of it's revenue stream.

1/12/2010 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Brent, are you saying there are many artists with no talent (at worst), or no-better-than-above-average talent (at best), who fool themselves into believing they deserve to be art stars? Like the hordes who show up for American Idol auditions?

If so, would that be the only reason for bitterness and disappointment out there? Could there be problems with the art world and industry that keep some artists (with better-than-above-average talent) from rising higher?

I'd be careful about buying into the American myth that all failure is the individual's fault.

1/12/2010 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I look forward to seeing what Jeffrey Deitch does at MOCA. It's very exciting that he's coming to L.A. We welcome refugees from New York.

Many of us here, having seen his photo in the local paper, have also been admiring his glasses. Hopefully they'll be selling replicas in the MOCA store.

1/12/2010 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gladys Grimaldi said...

I don't know if you guys remember about your young and impressionable days of being 20-something, but I am holding a protest this Sunday at National Portfolio Day. Please come!

1/12/2010 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

...that keep some artists (with better-than-above-average talent) from rising higher?

LOL, talent is only one part of the success equation. I thought they taught that in art school.

1/12/2010 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

I hate to interrupt your amusement, George, but I didn't say that talent is all there is to success. I said the opposite.

1/13/2010 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Oh Tom, I should have quoted the whole sentence Could there be problems with the art world and industry that keep some artists (with better-than-above-average talent) from rising higher?

Well, a lot of people (in all fields) are jerks and since "ordinary talent" isn't in short supply, someone else gets chosen. If one has extraordinary talent, being a jerk might be overlooked as long as one delivers.

On the corporate side there are also jerks who will blow one off just because they don't like your hairdo, but this is just a single case. If it's happening repeatedly then some self examination, a jerktology, is necessary.

1/13/2010 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Valerie said...

Kristen baker is the best painter of her generation?That's just loony .

1/13/2010 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

J. Wesley Brown - Deitch has many fine individuals working for him - and if he is able to make political hires (i mean nepotism, which i applaud) then he will have a certain flavor - that this flavor dovetails nicely with some aspects of the more publicized LA artworld is good and bad.

I'm not sure why Franklin singled out Kristin Baker - who cares really, she isn't really a great painter (or painter's painter) but she's still young and her work is ambitious. I'm not sure why Deitch exhibited her specifically. It could have something to do with her being smart and good looking - that's as rare as a rock star-poet.

But her work is pop where Franklin is wabi sabi old school academic - i wouldn't expect either to like each other's work.

There are other painters we could point to - Rosson Crow who also relies on splashy effects, like power chords really. She is collected by media execs and will probably get better (more engaged with color and emotional tone) if she continues to engage critically with the medium.

But back to Deitch - he wont risk his reputation crowning someone without a real track record - so look more towards the usual suspects form his rogues gallery - they are all over 5' 8" tall, which is intersting in the sense that many people in LA are short.

On the other hand, I do wonder

1/13/2010 08:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

That's just loony.

Indeed. But the statement that Koons is "one of the most important artists of the last quarter century" doesn't sound less crazy outside the contemporary art echo chamber. I picked Baker pretty much at random off the Deitch site. All you need to make that statement functionally true, for anyone, is to get enough of the right people repeating it.

1/13/2010 09:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many people in LA are short? Hey, Randy Newman, have you done a study? If it is true statistically, which I doubt, maybe it's because there is a very high Hispanic (mostly Mexican) demographic and Mexicans are generally shorter than Euros.

But really, WTF does this have to do with anything?

1/13/2010 11:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Brix said...

"Pink Floyd are short."

1/14/2010 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I'm no more inclined to respond to Zipthwung than television static, but I would prefer that my work be left out of this discussion, particularly by those who make none. I don't actively dislike Baker's paintings, although the only thing that seems to set her apart from other similar, average painters is her educational pedigree and the scrumptious headshot on Deitch's website. My point was mainly that contemporary art history is fabricated and arbitrary, and the Deitch appointment is going to make it even easier to fabricate.

1/14/2010 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

sorry...didn't catch that...I TOO prefer that commenters leave each others' work out of such discourages engagement on the topic at hand.

Thanks for your cooperation.

1/14/2010 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Woah there, there is another side to this. I know Franklin was making a joke about Deitch cannonizing Kristin, I got that, did you?

Because then you are making a joke of Kristin Baker. Not that I'm that worried about her - but Franklin is making a critical judgement about an artist - without addressing the work directly - which is the possible start of the continuation of the whisper campaign against Deitch.

Because aside from my pathological focus on Franklin, and whether he makes work or not, I was agreeing with Franklin, can you believe it?

So you might want to "catch that" as well, Ed, instead of siding with what frankly has an undercurrent of righteousness.

If my words are so much static, what does it matter?

As to continually harping on the idea that I make no work, what does it matter? Does Jerry Saltz show his work? Does he still make work? No on knows.

I was trying to be funny back by bringing up the in the context of Franklin's comment, which seemed to cherry bomb Kristin Baker into the conversation - Deitch has lot's of artists and I doubt he's going to rearange the cannon to put Kristin above Brad Kalhammer.

1/14/2010 01:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Zipthwung, again, I'm content to ignore your prattling. But if you persist in making moronic comments about my art and writing in public forums, I'm at the very least going to remind you that your doing so isn't backed up by any equivalent effort, commitment, or ownership.

1/14/2010 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Franklin, I will continue to call you on your errors, but I'm glad you are ignoring me and refusing to debate me.

Keep up the effort.

I own what I write, that what the government says anyways.

1/14/2010 11:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

You will own what you write when you sign your real name to it. And while I am generally ignoring you, and wish you'd return the favor, I am not refusing to debate you. Rather, your streams of self-indulgent non-sequiturs don't qualify as the stuff of debate in the first place. Do go on - you amuse Ed for some reason. Just leave my work out of it.

1/15/2010 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Is it an oversimplification to say that in the Deitch way, all art is commercial art, taking to heart the idea that the best art is business, and art's value lies in social currency, propaganda value or commodity fetish.

This means that a commercial art is considered art and the value is ultimately access to a sub culture (design being culture on a level of literature and wine).

COmmercialiszing sub cultures is nothing new - but deitch brings a modified Vans Warped tour to the upper class, who see working class California an exotic community. Which it is, relatively speaking.

Vaulting over established estuaries with instant exposure can be catastrophic to an artist - many people are horrified when a young artist with an apparent gimmick is promoted with relatively large amounts of money ((i.e. rent for a large space for a start).

On the other hand, if an artist is good, the slow route may seem a bit stodgy - and for Deitch, all of his artists are good. Right? Because he can't tell the difference.

And that is why I like Deitch. He isn't the only one who can't tell - there are people in other schools who can't detect "the good" - we call this taste, and everyone has their blind spots.
because in the end, taste is defined negatively by what you don't like, as often as what you do.

But the whole idea of THE art world is blinkered - Deitch isn't part of your art world unles you chose to include him by participating in his project. He can't harm you except by exposure (a double edged sword) or by "stealing" your audience by advancing his project - any more than a movie about dinosaurs can harm an author of cave man diet books. Cave men never ate dinosaurs. It's a fact.

In many art dealer's minds though, they are promoting THE art world, creating an audience. This is weird because the audience is already here.

Does art need a brand name?

Does the art world need a center?

1/15/2010 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

Did Man even exist at the same time as dinasaurs?

I thought they were in different time frames.

Like LA and NY - Jeff D n Glenn L

They want Jeff coz he talks to money - which is good. Unfortunately he also listens to money. Which is bad.

I can forgive almost everything except his web site.

That was probably the cincher in LA.

1/15/2010 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger no-where-man said...

Word today was Deitch may be heading out to MoCA to pull Jeff Koons Train to nowhere out of the station" which has a rumored price tag of $25 million and is currently stalled to to financial difficulties.

1/16/2010 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Re: Koons Train. No great loss. It would be a huge and hugely expensive work that would give art lovers very little in the way of experience (visual or otherwise). Once you see it, you'll have seen it. Thousands of small works - any one of which offers art lovers more than this spectacle would - are made by unknown artists every year.

1/17/2010 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous David Palmer said...

Re: Koons Train. We really do need trains in L.A., but we especially need tracks. Much as I think Jeff's train would be an interesting piece, I'd much rather see $25 mil spent on a Metro line through the Wilshire corridor to Santa Monica.

It's kind ironic that LACMA was going to install Koons' train sculpture, but you can't get to LACMA by train. You can get to MOCA, maybe, depending on where you're starting from.

1/17/2010 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Hollywood, LALA LAND.
J.D. is perfect for the job.

1/18/2010 02:25:00 PM  

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