We rarely receive anonymous tips in the middle of the night about museum curators, but very early this morning ARTINFO received an animated email from an anonymous source claiming that Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art had fired its Chief Curator Paul Schimmel following a majority vote by the museum’s Board of Trustees yesterday. Whether the report — which also alleged that a number of other staff had been fired alongside Schimmel — is the real deal, or just the work of anti-Jeffrey Deitch activists (of which L.A. has more than a few) along the lines of the satirical press releases sent out about New York’s Whitney Biennial recently in an attempt to embarrass the museum over its Sotheby’s ties, could not immediately be determined.
UPDATE 3: According to a statement sent to ARTINFO this afternoon, Schimmel was not fired, but is leaving his position. “Paul Schimmel is stepping down as MOCA’s chief curator,” MOCA Board Co-Chair David G. Johnson said. “It is amicable and there will be a press release tomorrow.”
UPDATE 2: According to a post on the Los Angeles Times’s blog, Schimmel was fired by the MOCA board of trustees yesterday, and their decision is effective immediately.
UPDATE 1: The Los Angeles Times’s Christopher Knight’s recent tweets suggest that Schimmel’s firing is a certainty. “MOCA’s sudden termination of chief curator Paul Schimmel is shocking but not surprising. Tensions have been building for a long time,” he wrote at 8:06am. At 8:32am he added: “Paul Schimmel’s big fall #MOCA show, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949–1962″ will go ahead, on a contract basis.”
It is worth noting, however, that there have been recent reports of turbulence inside L.A. MOCA.
While we wait for L.A. MOCA staff to wake up before we can officially confirm or discredit this rumor, here is the anonymous email we received:
It has come to my attention that Chief Curator Paul Schimmel was fired today from MOCA in Los Angeles by a majority vote of the Board of Trustees. The museum has released no internal memos regarding the firing, which happened at the same time that many curatorial assistants and other employees were also laid off. It would appear, however, that Schimmel’s dismissal was the result of prolonged interpersonal conflict with the current director, Jeffrey Deitch. This news was shocking to everyone at the museum, and it will no doubt shock the art world at large, which is why I am emailing you now.
A post on L.A. art blog Coagula Art Journal seems to corroborate the rumor.
— Benjamin Sutton