Jeffrey Deitch named director at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art

Jeffrey Deitch, newly appointed director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Image courtesy MOCA The Museum of Contemporary Art.

Jeffrey Deitch, newly appointed director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Image courtesy MOCA The Museum of Contemporary Art.

LOS ANGELES – Following a worldwide search, the Board of Trustees of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), has announced its unanimous vote appointing Jeffrey Deitch as the museum’s new director, effective June 1.

Deitch, 57, is one of New York’s leading gallerists, specializing in modern and contemporary art, and he has a 30-year career as an independent curator who has produced innovative exhibitions at museums and galleries around the world. As an art advisor to some of the world’s leading institutional and private collectors, he has helped build a number of major international contemporary art collections. He also advised Mori Building Company in Tokyo on the development of the Mori Art Museum and the Roppongi Hills Public Art & Design Project.

A longtime art writer and critic, Deitch is known for his innovations in catalogue design. The books that accompanied his exhibitions Post Human and Artificial Nature were among the first to introduce the concept of a visual essay. Deitch is co-author of a major monograph Keith Haring (2008), and he wrote the introduction to Jean-Michel Basquiat: 1981, The Studio of the Street (2007). He has written catalogue texts for exhibitions at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.

Deitch is well regarded internationally for his innovative curatorial vision. Lives, a 1975 exhibition about artists who used their own lives as an art medium, was Deitch’s first important curatorial project. Since then, he has curated a number of exhibitions of contemporary art for the Deste Foundation in Athens, including Cultural Geometry (1988), Artificial Nature (1990), Post Human (1992), Everything That’s Interesting Is New (1996), and Fractured Figure (2007). Post Human was also presented at four other museums: FAE Musée d’Art Contemporain in Lausanne, the Castello di Rivoli in Torino, the Deste Foundation in Athens, the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He curated Strange Abstraction for the Touko Museum in Tokyo in 1991 and Form Follows Fiction at the Castello di Rivoli in Torino, Italy.

“Jeffrey Deitch is the perfect fit for MOCA New, and he has the vision and energy to make the museum the world’s preeminent contemporary arts institution,” said Board Co-Chair Maria Bell and co-chair of the Board’s search committee. “Jeffrey lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes art. He is passionate about contemporary art and is committed to the future of MOCA.”

Since 1996, he has operated Deitch Projects, a public gallery with three New York locations that has presented more than 250 exhibitions, performances, and installations by contemporary artists. Among Deitch Projects’s notable exhibitions are Yoko Ono’s Ex It, Keith Haring’s Ten Commandments, and Street Market with Barry McGee, Todd James, and Stephen Powers.

“Jeffrey Deitch has for many years run one of the most exciting and adventuresome galleries in New York and will undoubtedly bring the same energy Deitch pioneered the banking world’s art advisory businesses, co-founding Citibank’s art advisory and art finance practices in 1979. His connections to MOCA date back to his work at Citibank, which was the lead contributor to The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (formerly The Temporary Contemporary) when it opened in 1983.

Before joining Citibank, Deitch was the assistant director of the John Weber Gallery in New York and the curator of the De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass. Deitch served as the first American editor of Flash Art, and he received an Art Critic’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1979. Deitch has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Wesleyan University and a M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

“MOCA has an extraordinary history, and it’s my goal to position MOCA as the most innovative and influential contemporary art museum in the world,” Deitch said. “I am excited by the opportunity to play a role in making MOCA and Los Angeles the leading contemporary art destination.”

“Jeffrey Deitch has been a very creative and visible force in the contemporary art world for decades,” said Michael Govan, director and CEO of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “He has always had an interest in the not-for-profit aspect of his art activities. With both strong intellectual artistic interests and pragmatic business and education expertise, he is a welcome addition to the growing art scene in Los Angeles.”

Deitch’s hiring caps a comeback year for MOCA, one marked by the addition of 10 new trustees, a successful MOCA NEW 30th Anniversary Gala in November that drew more than 1,000 international, national, and local celebrities, collectors, artists, and patrons and raised more than $4 million, bringing the museum’s one-year fundraising total to $64 million.

Deitch will succeed Charles E. Young, who was named MOCA chief executive officer in December 2008 following the resignation of director Jeremy Strick.

“We conducted an extensive international search and after interviewing a number of exceptional candidates, Jeffrey emerged as the right person to bring transformative change to MOCA while maintaining our core values,” said David Johnson, board co-chair and co-chair of the search committee. “With the leadership and commitment of the trustees, staff, artists, and the local and international community, the past year has been one of great success for MOCA. We deeply appreciate the leadership of Chuck Young for guiding MOCA through a difficult time and for creating the platform from which Jeffrey can take the museum to a new level.”

Deitch will be introduced today, Jan. 12, 2010 press conference at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

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