Deitch Aims Young

Catherine Wagley, DailyServing’s longest standing contributor is no stranger to the Los Angeles art community. Since our inception in 2006, Wagley has regularly contributed to the massive list of artist’s featured on DailyServing, while also building insightful commentary on the art happenings of Los Angeles, including the recent articles Another End to Irony, The Third Chapter of Blum and Poe and Faux Koons. Thanks to her dedication to DailyServing and the Los Angeles art community, I am proud to announce that Ms. Wagley will now be conducting a weekly column for DailyServing. It only seems fitting to start this new column with the recent news that has set the art world ablaze this week, Jeffery Deitch’s relocation to L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Make sure to visit the site each Friday for new commentary by Catherine Wagley on anything and everything L.A.

Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Deitch Projects, 2008

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Jeffrey Deitch was officially named MOCA’s director early on Monday; by the afternoon of the same day, the web homes of leading papers, art mags, and blogs were Deitch-driven blurs of cultural commentary. MOCA held a press conference  on Tuesday (I was there, along with a painfully small handful of others), at which  philanthropist Eli Broad, who bailed MOCA out of destitution last year, gave a speech unnervingly similar to the one he gave at the opening of LACMA’s Broad Contemporary two years ago. He again celebrated L.A. as the emerging art capitol of the world, only this time, MOCA, not LACMA, helmed L.A.’s rise.

Deitch spoke last, with a voice that wavered slightly and eyes that almost looked watery. He said he “was happy to lead” and not, as video artist Diana Thater duly pointed out, “happy to join” MOCA, its curators and its artists. He corroborated Broad, saying he would “continue to build MOCA so that, over the next decade, it is indisputably the leading contemporary art museum in the world”— it’s the sort of  thinly veiled domination rhetoric that seems more unsettling coming from art executives than from world leaders.

Keith Haring, "The Ten Commandments," Deitch Projects, 2008

Bravado aside, the list of what Deitch, who’s championed many of the same artists DailyServing has featured over the years, could bring to MOCA probably outstrips his conflicts of interest: business savvy, fundraising experience, a staggering reserve of energy, contacts galore, a likable persona, familiarity with a wide range of cultural outlets (he interviewed actress Chloe Sevigny for Paper Magazine the same year he entered the Smithsonian’s Oral History Archive). Still, it’s hard to say how venture will play out in reality.

Roaming around before Tuesday’s press conference, I ran into an old timer from L.A.’s Arts District, a man who’d arrived on the scene long before MOCA opened its doors in 1979. Downtown has changed, he said. It’s been evacuated in favor of the city’s Westside, but there are young people, young partiers, who are setting up camp down here, and they’re the crowd Deitch could reach. Then, almost with the same breath he’d used to tell me of the young downtowners, the man switched gears, talking about attending Pharmaka’s exhibition of Warhol prints last year, and seeing all the young “Snoop Doggs” at the opening. After seeing these kids, and hearing the owner of the prints carelessly discuss their value, he was, of course, unsurprised when the high-priced prints went missing a few months later.

I felt I’d been handed the perfect argument for why Deitch matters—Deitch may be flashy and financially vested in a few too many ways, but he certainly knows how to disrupt stereotypes about visual culture (this is the man who championed surf/hip-hop/punk energy of the 90s, and made minimal distinction between imagery from People Magazine and actual artwork in the catalogue for his Posthuman exhibition). I don’t see him blindly equating young people who [purportedly] listen to Snoop Dogg and look at Warhols with theft.

“Los Angeles has a remarkable, young audience who responds to art in a fresh way and wants to get involved,” Deitch said on Tuesday. “Young audience” doesn’t mean the 20-somethings graduating from BFA and MFA programs in SoCal (that demographic will attend MOCA with or without Deitch); it means a graffiti-savvy demographic with street cred.  If he can make that audience MOCA’s audience, he’ll have accomplished something memorable.