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MOCAtv debuts on YouTube, with free museum membership offer

October 01, 2012|By Mike Boehm
  • Passerby is reflected in a sign directing visitors to L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Passerby is reflected in a sign directing visitors to L.A.'s Museum… (Liz O. Baylen/For the Times )

L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art launched its MOCAtv channel on YouTube on Monday, offering an excellent deal — a free three-month membership to the actual, bricks and mortar, nonvirtual museum — for those who subscribe to the free online service, which features videos of artists creating or talking about their work.

Museum members get in free instead of having to pay the $12 admission charge; memberships usually cost $85 for a full year. To take advantage of the offer, sign up for MOCAtv by Oct. 21.

The channel debuted with 10 short videos, plus advertising content inserted by YouTube’s parent company, Google, that made for interesting juxtapositions on its opening day.

One clip was a studio visit with Robbie Conal, the Los Angeles artist known for his radical, left-wing political posters. As he explained his methods and motivations by showing a ghoulish portrait of President Ronald Reagan he’d done at the time of the mid-1980s Iran-Contra scandal (in which the Reagan administration, via point man Oliver North, illegally broke a ban on arms sales to Iran to fund guerrilla warfare against the left-wing Sandinista regime in Nicaragua), an ad popped up in the lower part of the screen inviting viewers  to click through to the official website of Mitt Romney’s Republican presidential campaign and make a $5 donation.

Other advertisers making pitches on MOCAtv included the World of Warcraft video game series, the Mormon church and a company that provides introductions to “beautiful Chinese women.” With a single click, viewers can close an ad and stop further intrusions for the duration of the clip they’re watching.

Museum spokeswoman Lyn Winter said that MOCA will receive an unspecified share of the channel's advertising revenues after Google recoups an initial outlay to the museum — also unspecified — that was used to develop, program and operate MOCAtv.

Will artists and curators who provide or develop content for the channel be paid? "Arrangements vary depending on the content being produced or acquired," Winter said, adding that the deal with Google includes provisions "to assure that the channel is not inconsistent with the museum's nonprofit mission."

“MOCAtv is a timely and vital digital extension of the museum,” museum director Jeffrey Deitch said in a news release announcing the video channel’s debut, adding that it “will attract the growing online audience of people on every continent who are interested in visual culture, and provide them with the opportunity to see, explore, and experience the art of today.”

Besides the interview with Conal, the initial lineup of videos included two on Cai Guo-Qiang’s gunpowder and fireworks drawings, which were featured at the museum this year, and interviews with Mark Bradford, Dave Muller, Alexis Smith, Diana Thater and Marnie Weber.

Attractions promised by MOCA include monthly art talks and studio visits with artists and weekly installments on street art and the intersection of music and visual art.

Planned segments include interviews connected to the museum’s upcoming exhibition “Blues for Smoke,” with Cornel West and Tavis Smiley among those talking about blues music’s influence on visual art, which is the show's theme;  “West Coast Video Art,” a series focusing on works by Eleanor Antin, Chris Burden and others;  “Art + Music Originals,” a series of specially commissioned music videos, including the  Nov. 13 premiere of “Mutual Core,” a new clip by art-pop chanteuse Bjork, directed by L.A.-based Andrew Thomas Huang ; and “The Art of Punk,” a documentary series focusing on visuals associated with punk rock bands, including Raymond Petitbon’s work for the South Bay band Black Flag.

MOCA first announced MOCAtv in January, saying at the time that it would debut in July. The decision to contract with Google, which owns YouTube, contributed to recent dissension on the museum’s board of trustees. Lenore Greenberg, a former MOCA board president who is now one of its nonvoting life trustees, said the deal was improperly sealed last December by the board’s executive committee alone, when it should have been voted on by the full board. 

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