The troubled tenure of Jeffrey Deitch at the helm of the Museum
of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, has come to an end.
When Jeffrey Deitch was named in 2010 to lead the Museum of
Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, many in the city's art world
expressed guarded optimism that he could turn around a museum that
had come close to foundering only two years earlier.
But others urged Mr. Deitch, a veteran New York art dealer, to
run from the job, which they saw as next to impossible, a tangle of
long-festering internal problems compounded by the museum's
unenviable basics: two locations blocks apart, one of them with no
on-site parking in a downtown neighborhood that remains a tough sell
for tourists and residents alike.
In retrospect, Mr. Deitch may wish he had listened to the second
group. On Wednesday, the museum announced his resignation three
years into a five-year contract, after a tenure that included a few
well-attended, critically praised exhibitions but that was marked by
staff defections and budget problems.
Mr. Deitch has not publicly spoken about stepping down and
declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday.
Since the decision, few people have been willing to speak on the
record about what happened at the museum, which has one of the
finest collections of postwar art in the country. Privately, his
supporters say that he took the job with several disadvantages,
among them the inability -- partly because of the museum's financial
situation -- to bring in people he knew to help him. Relations
between Mr. Deitch and Paul Schimmel, the museum's chief curator,
were tense from the beginning. (Mr. Schimmel left under pressure
In 2008, the museum was saved from going under or merging with
another institution by the billionaire collector Eli Broad, who is
building a museum to house his own collection opposite the Museum of
Contemporary Art's location on Grand Street. Charles Young, the
chancellor emeritus of the University of California, Los Angeles,
was brought in by Mr. Broad as chief executive of the contemporary
museum and quickly stabilized it.
But Mr. Broad also engineered the selection of Mr. Deitch, and
some trustees and financial supporters of the museum felt that the
choice had been forced on them, leading to a downturn in giving,
according to a former museum official, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues involved.
The former official added, however, that Mr. …