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.