Vanity Fair Shines the Spotlight on MOCA, and Everyone Involved Ends Up Looking Awful

Bob Colacello took an in-depth look at recent (and not-so-recent) troubles at L.A. MOCA in Vanity Fair this month, and it makes exactly no one look good. By the end of the piece, the museum appears to be an institutional failure on life-support as a result of mismanagement and squabbling donors (which is not unlike the other portrayals of the MOCA situation in recent months). The lynchpin in all of this is, of course, unreasonable Eli Broad, who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to be the czar of the L.A. art world. The story of the museum is increasingly looking like one big Greek tragedy.

Just after artist-board members Catherine Opie, John Baldessari, and Barbara Kruger, among others, resigned from the museum’s board, ARTINFO’s executive editor Ben Davis wrote a column in which he stated “the Broad rescue now appears to be an example of pursuing a solution that has nothing to do with the real problem, and is more of a pet ideological agenda of one man, Eli Broad.” If this account is to be believed, Ben was most definitely right. It won’t matter how many high-profile art world establishmentarians come and go from the museum’s leadership, because its ultimate fate is in the hands of Broad and his hubris. (The billionaire collector did not weigh in for the Vanity Fair piece, other than through his communications director, who suggests that the author instead write a puff piece about the new Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.)

Ironically, the other takeaway from the article — and the worst part of the story — is that everyone actually seems to want MOCA to succeed. Even L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight, who was one of the first to oppose Broad’s meddling at the institution, told Colacello, “I don’t think there are really any villains, or evil people running around trying to do evil things. I think it’s a classic case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.”

Good intentions, however, don’t seem to be doing much to keep MOCA afloat.

Shane Ferro