How might Klaus Biesenbach’s sudden departure from MOCA affect the art museum?

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Los Angeles is losing its artistic director, Klaus Biesenbach, who is going to lead art institutions in Berlin instead. Photo by Minnaert (CC BY-SA 3.0).

LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art announced a new leadership team in early September: New Executive Director Johanna Burton (after a six-month search) and Artistic Director Klaus Biesenbach. The two were set to co-lead MOCA’s next era.

But last Friday, Biesenbach announced he’s leaving the museum to lead the Neue Nationalgalerie and the forthcoming Museum of the 20th Century — both in Berlin. His sudden departure is the latest shakeup at MOCA, which has a history of departing talent

“More than half of his tenure has been during the pandemic, so it was a pretty difficult time,” says Christopher Knight, art critic at the Los Angeles Times.

After this interview aired, MOCA sent KCRW a statement: 

“We congratulate Klaus on the honor of being appointed as the director of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. We wish him the best and thank him for his contributions to MOCA.

In light of the changed circumstances resulting from Klaus’ new appointment, Klaus will not serve as Artistic Director of MOCA. On November 1, Johanna will assume the full role of the Maurice Marciano Director of MOCA. Klaus is transitioning his duties to Johanna and has offered to be available in an advisory capacity. … MOCA does not plan to hire another Artistic Director.”