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2 more off MOCA board

July 15, 2012|Jori Finkel
  • John Shearer
John Shearer (lbzyjinc20120714230342/600 )

Two more prominent Los Angeles artists have resigned from the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, citing their disagreement with its direction and the recent ouster of the museum's chief curator.

Catherine Opie and Barbara Kruger sent a joint email to museum director Jeffrey Deitch and board chairs David Johnson and Maria Bell on Friday. The day before, artist John Baldessari announced he was resigning.

The fourth artist-trustee on the board, Ed Ruscha, is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

The departures follow the forced resignation of chief curator Paul Schimmel, who had closely shaped MOCA's exhibition program until Deitch, a New York gallery owner, was hired two years ago as museum director.

Opie is known for her photographic portraits. Kruger's billboard-style works combine text and images. Neither shies away from political content in their art.

Opie said that she did not attend the board meeting last month in which the dismissals of Schimmel, education program manager Aandrea Stang and several curatorial assistants were announced because she was out of town, but that she would have liked to have been consulted or at least informed.

"The fact that there was no phone call to us -- no heads-up about Paul and all of the other people let go -- is troubling," she said.

Opie also said that she was not a fan of MOCA's shift to flashier exhibitions.

"I love and respect MOCA," she said. "But the museum is taking such a different direction now. I believe that MOCA's strengths have always been in relationship to the outstanding scholarly curatorial practice it had established. What concerns me is seeing the museum embracing more celebrity and fashion."

In comments after his resignation, Baldessari also cited Schimmel's forced resignation, as well as Deitch's plan to present an exhibition about the effect of disco music on art and culture.

Kruger, reached in New York, confirmed her decision to leave the board but declined to say more about it. "Everything that I think I put in that letter," she said. "I'd like at some point to share it but not yet."

It is unusual for an art museum to have four artists on its board. Although the MOCA artist-trustees are not expected to pay annual dues like other trustees, they participate in board meetings and regularly donate works of art to be sold for the museum's benefit.

Kruger sold a six-figure artwork to help fund the "Ends of the Earth" Land Art survey currently at the museum. Opie prepared a set of 50 prints to be sold for $125,000 to benefit the museum's education department, shortly before she learned of Stang's departure.

Reached Saturday, museum board co-chairs Johnson and Bell responded with a statement. "We are very saddened by Barbara's and Cathy's decision and are confident that they will remain involved in shaping the future of MOCA. We are very grateful for their commitment and generosity to the museum."


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