MOCA announced Philippe Vergne as its new Director late yesterday. Here is the very short first interview
A couple of thoughts... this is good, partially because this gets Vergne out of the Dia Foundation. Vergne is a curator at the core but somehow his 5 years at the Dia were rather unremarkable and staid. His fundraising resorted to deaccessioning work and the two didn't seem like an ideal fit. He should be great for MOCA though... because it needs to reassert its curatorial integrity, while at the same time keep itself from being too LA centric or LA aloof. Vergne tends to be more academic, which will sit well in LA where art schools hold tremendous sway. It will be a distinct contrast to his predecessor, Jeffrey Deitch who made a career out of thumbing his nose at the academics. It didn't go over well in LA.
Overall, Vergne knows how to manage critical distance/integrity and has a particularly strong eye for Contemporary Asian art... that Asian-West Coast connection is crucial to reassert. Fundraising will still be a question but with a more activated board this should bake MOCA the more risk taking and contemporary institution compared to Govan's empire building LACMA across town. Having a clear difference between the two is crucial. Vergne should also get to know the rest of the West Coast... years ago he was quoted in the Oregonian about Portland artists needing to be more worldly and came off like someone talking from anywhere but experience. The West Coast should be a learning experience in both directions... things do get oddly regional on the West Coast at the institutional level (even if the artists are very aware and well travelled) and it is rare to have a European curator helming an institution here. Congrats LA and MOCA!
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