Jeffrey Deitch Departs, but Not Everyone is Pleased

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Jeffrey Deitch announced his resignation last week. It was long anticipated and many of his critics are relieved. But despite his managerial and political mistakes, not everybody is pleased to see him go.

Media coverage of the Deitch tenure has largely reflected the emotions and opinions of the Los Angeles art community, which has been highly critical. But there are those outside of that community, who nonetheless are interested in art and museums, who have a different view of his efforts to shake up MOCA.

Mallery Roberts Morgan, design and culture journalist for The Hollywood Reporter and AD France who moved here recently from Paris (whose hashtag following the news was #sadjeffreyisleaving), told DnA, “I’m mad at Los Angeles for losing Jeffrey. It’s a missed opportunity for LA to lead on an international stage. What he was trying to do was so forward-thinking and cutting edge, experimental in many ways, all issues that museums the worldover today are struggling with in order to attract a younger generation. If we’d gotten behind him and helped him make his vision successful, we would have been leaders, not followers.”


Jesse Dylan, who made a film lauding Deitch (see video, below) told DnA, “It is not unusual for someone at the forefront of change to be misunderstood. Though Jeffrey Deitch is no longer Director at MOCA, let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that he brought an original voice to the art scene in Los Angeles. Whether or not you’re a fan of his style, we can all agree that he was responsible for a set of provocative, interesting and unexpected exhibitions that enriched our experience of art.”

Dylan says he was inspired to make the film, entitled “Dylan on Deitch: Reinventing the Experience of Art,” after attending the crowd-pleasing MOCA show “Art in the Streets.” (His company, Wondros, says it did not receive MOCA funding.)

By operating on the maxim that Art Is What You Can Get Away With, Deitch delighted and offended in equal measure (image from James Franco’s controversial “Rebel,” below), but he rarely bored (see the LA Times’ on MOCA’s Ups and Downs). One 30-something acquaintance said she’d been to the museum more times in the last three years than in all her preceeding years.

FrancoRebelsignBy mixing it up with fashion, film, music and performance, and by embracing the spontaneous (Urs Fischer and his 1500 friends; Art in the Streets; Transmission LA: AV Club, above left) Deitch’s shows took the earnestness out of contemporary art, which many people outside of the cognoscenti find daunting and obscure (below, Jeremy Levine talks about the importance of reaching out to young people who grew up never visiting museums.)

Evidently Deitch did not have the skill set or experience of a museum director, (and certainly the New Sculpturalism architecture show suffered as a result of poor oversight), leading his supporters to ask why he was brought into that role when his strengths lay in curation. But he awakened MOCA with his passion and curiosity — traits that enliven culture, that LA now loses and New Yorkers get to enjoy again.

See Dylan on Deitch: Reinventing the Experience of Art, Jesse Dylan of Wondros, below:

Listen to Frances Anderton in conversation with Steve Chiotakis in this All Things Considered segment featuring Mayer Rus, Mallery Roberts Morgan and Jeremy Levine.