[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 26

Gerry Coulter gcoulter at ubishops.ca
Tue Jan 26 14:45:39 EST 2010

My but you are afraid of alot of things. Probably the best thing we could do with Deitch is to exile him to some hell hole like LA MoCa. 


From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of John Haber [jhaber at haberarts.com]
Sent: January 25, 2010 9:26 PM
To: empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 62, Issue 26

Since Deitch, quite rightly, came up as an example of the problem, can I
steal from my own words about him, not yet published?

Art's Evil Empire

Bringing Jeffrey Deitch to LA's Museum of Contemporary Art is like
asking Bill Gates to run Google. With street-level cameras and Google
books, the company that made a fortune off the promise to do no evil is
scaring people. So why not turn it over to the evil empire? As for MOCA,
the museum that almost bankrupted itself is finding its way -– at the
cost of funding and oversight from a wealthy patron and collector, Eli
Broad. So why not hire New York's flashiest dealer, rather than a
curator or academic?

I shall follow my own impressions here with reports on what some of New
York's other dealers think of the idea. What do they think of a
commercial dealer taking over a museum? What would they do given the
chance? And what will be the impact on the New York arts scene of
closing Deitch Projects? However, the reportage, still in progress
anyway, will be embargoed here for a month or two pending appearance in
Artillery magazine.

Deitch polarizes people. He does so with Deitch Projects, the Soho
gallery that thinks big. This is the gallery where everything seems to
blink on and off. This is the gallery that, in 2009, turned the death of
Dash Snow into a celebrity event and showcased Kehinde Wiley, with his
cross between street art and fashion magazine. Naturally it has welcomed
in the new year with Keith Haring. With the garish, steamy, seamy, and
unsettling Black Acid Co-op covering its three levels, Justin Lowe and
Jonah Freeman could have been targeting Deitch himself.

One could hear the hesitation between shock and awe when Jerry Saltz
broke the news on January 10. "It looks," he wrote online for New York
magazine, "like the sacrosanct wall between museums, galleries, and
private collectors in the art world is about to come down." Yet many on
the Web welcomed changing the rules of an oppressive art scene. One
could almost forget to ask just what had changed in putting money before
scholarship – or whether anything had changed. Deitch already had his
foot in almost every other door. When William Powhida savagely mapped
the 2009 art world in his Relational Wall, Deitch stood at its center, a
link away from Saltz, Jeff Koons, and dozens of others.

Since Deitch always scares me, this sure does, but he might be fine for
the job. He has art and business experience, both of which go into
running a museum. A Harvard MBA and a creator of Citibank's arts
advisory program, he gets things funded, and even his excess of
networking and connections may prove useful. Jeremy Strick actually ran
a superb museum on the score of art, just overspent on infrastructure
and exhibitions, a common enough recent failing. Deitch could shore up
MOCA's finances. While a sudden promotion from, well, promotion is
unprecedented, I should be the last to insist on the need for a degree
in art history or museum studies.

Deitch himself insists that he always ran his gallery "like an art
center, with historic exhibitions where only minor things were for
sale." On the down side, he could become a west coast Thomas Krens -–
another big ego with a taste for lavish, tacky displays. His connections
will probably not lead to conflict of interest, or will they? He
vacillates on his plans for future dealings, and he even has Eli Broad
as a client. As for his business sense, he all but begged to lose money
when he opened a warehouse-scale waterfront branch in Long Island City.
Not that Citibank has set high standards for financial management either

Scarier still, so much has not changed in putting commerce first. Think
of museum blockbusters or the Met's display of its wealth under Philippe
de Montebello. Think of the mainstreaming of P.S. 1 under MOMA or of the
New Museum under Lisa Phillips, once a polarizing figure herself at the
Whitney. Phillips is in fact just about to turn the joint over to Koons
and his collector, Dakis Joannou. Or maybe the whole affair is a New
Yorker's ploy to close Deitch Projects and restore some sanity. At the
very least, Powhida will now have to update Deitch's place in an evil
art world.

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