Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Is that really J. Deitch’s best argument?

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There’s an interesting Mike Boehm story in today’s Los Angeles Times that considers whether or not it’s appropriate for one of the co-curators of MOCA’s street art exhibition to have commercial interests that overlap with the show’s focus. On one hand, neither of the show’s curators have traditional scholarly credentials. On the other, street art hasn’t been much examined by academics or by curators with traditional backgrounds and interests. [Image: Deitch and Chaz Bojorquez at MOCA. Image via Flickr user vandalog.]

(There are some tweaky parts: The Association of Art Museum Directors’ president is Kaywin Feldman, not “Kaylin”; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston didn’t just rent parts of its collection to a casino-affiliated commercial space in 2004, it has done so repeatedly since, as has the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. It’s not just the New Museum that has embarrassed itself with a vanity show, LACMA has too.)

When asked about the plain potential for museum-credibility-damaging conflicts, MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch offered this: “The rules are that you need a team with great personal integrity, people who are dedicated. It’s about character.”

Except that’s not a “rule,” that’s explicitly a, “trust me, it’s all good.” ‘Trust one person’ is a low standard of institutional ethics.

There is reason to be concerned: So far, Deitch has fudged plenty on integrity issues. After initially saying he’d sell no art as director of MOCA, he backtracked and said he might. Deitch also promised to disclose the art he owns. So far MOCA has released no such list.

And now, questioned about a thorny ethical issue, Deitch doesn’t reveal mechanisms he or his board have put in place to ensure the museum’s integrity. (Apparently they have not done so.) Instead: ‘Trust me.’ We should be wary.

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Comments

  1. by Readmade777

    I would ALSO like to see a copy of Deitch’s birth certificate!

  2. Tyler – you can’t look at only look at admissions, you have to understand the relationship between admissions and membership. If a museum doesn’t charge an admission they also have removed the major incentive for a visitor to become a member. At LACMA membership is $8.5 million. Cut the $2.5 million and you will substantially cut the $8.5 million too. There are many examples of Museum with free admissions that do not have robust membership programs. Additionally, many major gift donors start as members; and the leading indicator for a planned gift (including an institution in their estate plans) is the length of the giving relationship, not the size of the giving relationship, as one might assume. Museum’s are healthiest when they have a diversified revenue base that includes many earned and philanthropic sources. Changing one can impact negatively impact others.

  3. You can’t look at only look at admissions, you have to understand the relationship between admissions and membership. If a museum doesn’t charge an admission they also have removed the major incentive for a visitor to become a member. At LACMA membership is $8.5 million. Cut the $2.5 million and you will substantially cut the $8.5 million too. There are many examples of Museum with free admissions that do not have robust membership programs. Additionally, many major gift donors start as members; and the leading indicator for a planned gift (including an institution in their estate plans) is the length of the giving relationship, not the size of the giving relationship, as one might assume. Museum’s are healthiest when they have a diversified revenue base that includes many earned and philanthropic sources. Changing one can negatively impact others.

  4. Unfortunately Deitch is living down to all the concerns raised when his directorship was announced. Is there no one on the staff or Board who can raise concerns and keep Deitch aware of the standards he has to uphold?

  5. by Christopher Knight

    JS May: In the 10 years after the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts got rid of admissions, attendance doubled. Membership also doubled, however, based on campaigns asking for the public’s support to keep admission free.

    Rather than commercial appeals (“Free admission with membership!”; “Two for the price of one!”), cultural institution membership can (and I believe should) be developed on the basis of transforming visitors into patrons — even if the patronage is of the $50-annual-membership variety. Many art museums, including the MIA, have done it.

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