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Pleasure, and pain, inside MOCA

Jeremy Strick says his 9-year tenure wasn't without hurdles, but it was satisfying.

December 26, 2008|Suzanne Muchnic

Barbara Kruger, an artist and MOCA trustee, is among them. "Jeremy understands the absolute centrality of art and artists in a contemporary art museum, and I think that is rare," she said this week.

Artist John Baldessari, also a MOCA board member, called Strick's departure "unfortunate."

"I don't think he was hired to be a financial wizard," Baldessari said. "It was because of his acumen in art. In my mind, Jeremy became a scapegoat, a lightning rod. . . . It's easier to point to one person than a group of people."

To Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, its counterpart in Los Angeles is "a beacon and a model program."

"It is significant that it is precisely under Jeremy Strick's nine-year tenure that they presented some of the most important exhibitions in the history of contemporary art and traveled those projects worldwide," she said. "I trust that if this crisis has any kind of a silver lining, it is that there is increasing recognition of the institution and the fact that it is a precious public trust."

As might be expected, Strick has done a lot of soul-searching. But he burst into laughter when asked if he would advise young curators to become museum directors.

"I would encourage them because the profession needs them," he said. "But I would encourage them to keep their eyes open, take a good look at the financials, ask hard questions, make every effort to find out what they are getting into. Museums aren't easy places to manage, but the impact they make and the value they add to people's lives is tremendous. I don't know if anything worth doing is easy. This is something that is really worth doing."

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Times staff writer Diane Haithman contributed to this report.

suzanne.muchnic@latimes .com

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