Art? Commerce? Fusing the two at MOCA

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logo_shape_colorOnly a month ago, the Museum of Contemporary Art was in the headlines as the target of a possible takeover by LACMA.  The situation sounded dire: Without being rescued by another institution, could MOCA stay afloat?

Swiss superstar artist Urs Fischer

Now, there’s a new mega-show about to open across two of MOCA’s facilities, the announcement of $75 million recently tucked into the troubled museum’s coffers by new board members. Additionally, its annual fundraising gala takes place this weekend, which reportedly sold out at $2500 a plate.

The gala is hosted by Larry Gagosian, whose galleries happen to represent the artist celebrated in the museum’s latest exhibit, Urs Fischer.

Of course he’s celebrating. By hanging in the hallowed halls of an esteemed museum like MOCA, Fischer’s work immediately becomes more valuable to his gallery and thus potential collectors.

These blurred lines are exactly what purists have been concerned about since gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch crossed over from the commercial world to head MOCA.

But KCRW art critic Hunter Drohojowska-Philp says make no mistake: these lines have been intersecting for some time.

Handbags and art (or handbags as art) (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

To wit: In 2008, before Deitch was at the helm, MOCA’s Murakami show featured a Louis Vuitton shop which sold handbags adorned by the artist right in the middle of the exhibit. The idea reportedly came from chief curator Paul Schimmel, whom you may remember was ousted last year by Deitch, ostensibly because he was too old-school. (A flurry of resignations by artists on MOCA’s board ensued).

Hunter also points to a recent story in the magazine Art in America, which looks at a trend at the esteemed Guggenheim Museum in New York, where nearly half of recent solo shows have been of artists represented by the same gallery.

Here’s her review of the Urs Fischer show, which officially opens Sunday: