Jeffrey Deitch on LA's Art and Culture
FROM LEFT: Jeffrey Deitch; Pay for Your Pleasure (1988) by Mike Kelley; Untitled (...On Love) (2007) by Rodney McMillian
The appointment of long-time New York gallerist and art advisor Jeffrey Deitch as the new director of MOCA shocked the art world. Deitch is known for employing unique ideas to connect art to the community, as exemplified by his Art Parade in which artists, performers and designers marched floats, placards and other public installations through the streets of Soho. I sat down with the museum’s new man in charge to discuss his decision to come to the Left Coast, MOCA’s new exhibit celebrating LA artists and its upcoming gala.
DENNIS SCHOLL: What is it about this opportunity at MOCA that motivated you to take on this role?
JEFFREY DEITCH: First of all, Los Angeles. I had this instinct that a lot of energy is coming from Los Angeles right now. There is quite an interesting convergence of very talented people coming here from other cities to take on key territorial and academic posts. Of course there’s LACMA’s Michael Govan and a number of the curators he has chosen—Franklin Sirmans and Christine Kim—as well as Annie Philbin and Ali Subotnick at the Hammer and Rochelle Steiner at USC. Also a number of artists who had been working in New York, like Ryan Trecartin, are moving here. A lot of people in my circle have come here or are thinking about coming here. It’s interesting the way art communities work. Things build, and then all of a sudden the critical mass is there. Los Angeles is the place to be. I believe art is about this blurring of the boundaries between media. Los Angeles is the place where this blurring of the boundaries can happen. There are so many talented people here who are not specifically visual artists but are working in film or music, and they’re very involved in and knowledgeable about contemporary art and incorporating it in what they do.
DS: The job is a big transition for you. Are you concerned about that at all?
JD: I find it seamless because I’m working with the same circle of people I worked with at the gallery. Most of the artists who I want to work with here are either people I’ve worked with before or people I know very well. A lot of the patrons and trustees here are people I’ve known for years.
DS: Tell us about the current show “The Artist’s Museum,” which focuses solely on Los Angeles artists, featuring only works from the MOCA collection and LA collectors.
JD: We want everything to come from Los Angeles. The curators and I came up with a fresh concept—to focus on the artists in LA who have been working during the 30-year history of MOCA. The exhibit features primarily artists who emerged from the ’80s but also artists from earlier generations, like Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari, who continued to do great work over the past 30 years even though they emerged in the ’60s. One of our curators, Bennett Simpson, came up with a great idea for the title, “The Artist’s Museum,” because in the beginning MOCA was often referred to as the “the artist’s museum.” MOCA continues to be unique in America; we have four artists on the board of trustees—Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, and we just asked Cathy Opie to join the board. I love that concept of MOCA as the artist’s museum. I wanted to reassert that concept, that attitude and embrace the LA artists’ community. The idea is to show the viewer a history of Los Angeles art from 1980 to the present. We’ll give the viewer a sense of what was important—what was really happening here.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY STEFANIE KEENAN/WIREIMAGE.COM (DEITCH)
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.