The Museum of Contemporary Art has announced that it will present an exhibition at the Hollywood space of furniture dealer Joel Chen. MOCA said that Chen was a donor to the exhibition and that his donation included both sponsorship and made an in-kind donation and that he is contributing his space at a reduced rate. In a press release, MOCA described Chen’s business, J.F. Chen, as “a newly emerging contemporary art and design space.” Donors to the exhibition include Gucci, Seven For All Mankind and Samsung. [Update, 10:15pm EDT: A MOCA spokesman emailed to clarify the museum's characterization of its relationship with Chen. MOCA now says Chen is not a financial contributor to the exhibition, but that he "is an in-kind donor and is contributing his space at a reduced rate."]
While museums often participate in activities off-site, it’s extremely unusual — and perhaps unprecedented — for a museum to put an exhibition in a space owned by a dealer or to accept funds from a dealer.
The exhibition, “Rebel” will be on view from May 15 to June 23. A museum spokesperson said that the show did not have a traditional curator, but that it was put together by actor James Franco in conjunction with artists Douglas Gordon, Harmony Korine, Damon McCarthy, Paul McCarthy, Terry Richardson, Ed Ruscha and Aaron Young. The museum’s press release describes the exhibition as:
“‘[A]n interrogative ode to Nicholas Ray’s masterpiece Rebel Without A Cause (1955), conceived by Franco to embrace and mine the main themes and events in the original film. The exhibition reinterprets the film’s legends, the people involved, its place in Hollywood, film as a medium, and behind-the-scenes footage, in a new, fresh, and unconventional presentation of film, video installation, photography, painting, drawing, and sculpture, housed in and framed by iconic Hollywood structures.”
A MOCA spokesperson said that Chen will not be selling any of the objects in the exhibition. “Joel Chen is very interested in and supportive of contemporary art and design, and he’s been incredibly collaborative with this project,” MOCA spokesperson Lyn Winter told MAN. “The project is being presented by MOCA in conjunction with the artists and J.F. Chen has been very supportive in hosting the exhibition.”
MOCA has recently come under fire for its unusual associations with commercial figures. Earlier this month Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight criticized the museum for presenting an exhibition of vintage clothing curated by the owner of a clothing store. That exhibition, titled “The Total Look,” is on view at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center outpost through May 27.
“Whether MOCA’s vintage [Rudi] Gernreich presentation is an actual museum show or a bid for business is anybody’s guess — which is why a general prohibition prevails among nonprofit art museums for shenanigans like this,” Knight wrote.