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Firing of MOCA curator is latest of many departures [Updated]

June 28, 2012|By Mike Boehm and Jori Finkel
  • Paul Schimmel, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Paul Schimmel, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

MOCA board Chairman David Johnson issued this statement Thursday about the departure of its chief curator, Paul Schimmel, the latest key member of the museum leadership to leave.

"Paul Schimmel is stepping down as MOCA's chief curator. It's amicable and there will be a release tomorrow."

Update, 1:40 p.m.: According to museum insiders, MOCA also laid off senior education program manager Aandrea Stang, senior designer Nicholas Lowie, writer/editor Erica Wrightson, and three curatorial assistants.The employees were reportedly told they had to leave by end of day Friday at the latest. None of the dismissed employees named above returned calls for comments, nor did MOCA’s publicist.

Schimmel’s firing reduces the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's curatorial ranks to three, down from five when Jeffrey Deitch became the museum’s director in mid-2010.

Philipp Kaiser, who last summer was named director-designate of Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, wound up his MOCA tenure last month. The remaining curators are Alma Ruiz, who has been at MOCA since the 1980s; Bennett Simpson, who joined the museum in 2007, and Rebecca Morse, who also has been on board since before Deitch arrived. 

Two other leading creative-staff members who left in 2009 and early 2010 have not been replaced: Ari Wiseman, the deputy museum director who became an executive at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and Ann Goldstein, the MOCA senior curator who rose to director of the Stedelijk Museum early in 2010.

Departures since Deitch’s arrival include education director Suzanne Isken, who became director of L.A.’s Craft and Folk Art Museum, chief fundraiser Jennifer Arceneaux, who took charge of fundraising for the Sundance Institute, and two executives who were hired under Deitch in 2011 and served less than a year before leaving without explanation: chief fundraiser Sarah Sullivan, and executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David M. Galligan.

Other departures include Richard Weil, who would become chief financial officer under Deitch’s predecessor, Charles E. Young, and Gary Cypres, a volunteer trustee who chaired the museum board’s finance committee before resigning in February for reasons he declined to state.

Much of the museum’s design work is now being handled by Studio One, the design agency that Shepard Fairey founded in 2003. Stephanie Flores, vice president of accounts at Studio One, confirmed the firm signed an agreement in March to work on “material related to exhibitions: brochures, invites, banners,” as well as MOCATV, the museum's upcoming youtube channel, and the occasional print ad. She said they are not doing the museum’s publications or magazines.

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