MOCA the Likeable

Last week the Los Angeles Times reported that donations of art to MOCA have not, as doomsayers feared, fallen off a cliff. Here’s another positive indicator: MOCA is the city’s most liked museum.

That’s “liked” as in Facebook likes. MOCA has 194,316 likes, putting it far ahead of the Getty (134,553) and LACMA (110,666). Does this mean anything? A few years ago I would have shrugged. Now Facebook is so mainstream that it’s hard to ignore. (At top, from MOCA’s collection: James Rosenquist’s A Lot to Like).

RETNA: 22,764 likes

You might suppose that contemporary art draws younger crowds who are more active social net users. That’s true, but it can’t be the whole story. The Hammer has only only 19,099 likes.

There is similar pattern in New York, where the numbers are larger. MoMA has 1.26 million likes, versus 783,000 for the Metropolitan Museum. But MoMA has Matisse, Picasso, and van Gogh. MOCA stakes everything on post-WWII art and often on emerging artists or “forgotten” history. That makes its lead among L.A. museums all the more surprising.

None of this changes the fact that MOCA’s attendance is a fraction of LACMA’s or the Getty’s. Ergo, MOCA visitors (and hangers-on) are many times more inclined to click the like button. I’m not sure what that means except that it suggests a special connection to the city’s contemporary museum.

Spider Pavilion: 9 Likes

There’s no way of knowing how many likes are endorsements of Jeffrey Deitch populism or Paul Schimmel counterintuitivity—or whether this dubious dichotomy exists in the mind of the average liker. I suspect that MOCA picked up a lot of likes during “Art in the Streets.” Many artists in that show have racked up impressive numbers of likes on their own Facebook pages. Shepard Fairey has 51,344 likes, and RETNA has 22,764. In comparison it’s rare for a non-street artist to have 1000 likes (and not all care to have a like button on their FB page). John Baldessari has 2633.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has 26,422 likes, and its Spider Pavilion has 9 likes.