Jeffrey Deitch: LA MOCA’s Seismic Shift
When the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) hired gallery owner, curator and art dealer Jeffrey Deitch as its new director, the art world raised its collective eyebrows. The move was a major shake up on two fronts: primarily because academics are typically favored over private dealers for such positions due to potential conflicts of interest, but also due to Deitch’s particular background.
While hardly your typical “outsider,” Deitch has been both an institution in the New York art world and a champion of young, emerging and often controversial artists since the 1980′s. A Harvard MBA and one time Vice-President at Citibank, he immersed himself in the burgeoning street art scene almost from its inception, working with Jean Michel-Basquiat and eventually coming to represent the estate of Keith Haring.
In more recent years Deitch Projects has aided subsequent waves of street, graffiti and other non-traditional artists in transitioning into the mainstream art world, providing representation and a venue for gallery exposure.
He has funded art armadas and human hamster nest installations, fostering the slow acceptance of outliers as icons in their own right.
Deitch has always bankrolled his more provocative exhibitions and exploits by brokering art sales, catering to high-profile private collectors–a field in which there are far more gray areas than in the starched white world of institutional leadership.
Even as he shutters Deitch Projects on June 1 in order to assume his new position, all eyes will be on him for back room dealings or inklings of self-interest. It’s a gamble for MOCA, but considering Jeffrey Deitch’s already monumental impact on the shape and form of contemporary art as we know it today, it’s one that could pay off handsomely.