Jeffrey Deitch's embattled stewardship of the Museum of Contemporary Art has ended with his resignation as director three years into his five-year contract. That's probably a good thing for the museum, which was under serious financial strain for most of his tenure even as it engaged in a bitter battle over the artistic direction in which it was moving.
Deitch was a risky hire from the start, an innovative but untested New York gallery owner tapped for a job that traditionally goes to someone with a scholarly, curatorial background and administrative experience. Although he had a number of successes — most notably the popular 2011 "Art in the Streets" graffiti exhibition in which he emphasized the symbiosis between art and pop culture — his tenure was overshadowed by his failings. He struggled with fundraising, and he overburdened himself as an administrator. He watched as his staff dwindled, and he alienated all four artists on the board of a museum that prided itself on its connection to local artists. They resigned last summer.
As MOCA's board members begin a worldwide search for a new director, we hope that they are not so chastened by the recent tumult that they will settle for a dull, safe or predictable choice. That said, there are some lessons to be learned from the missteps of the last few years.