Dear Jeffrey Deitch: Free Ideas for Your New Museum

New MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch might have just accepted the art world’s most controversial position, but if there’s one thing everyone can agree he’s great at, it’s throwing a party. And now, he’s got a bright, blank new L.A. canvas to work with. We asked artists, curators and critics to provide some guidance for Deitch’s new gig.

New MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch might have just accepted the art world’s most controversial position,but if there’s one thing everyone can agree he’s great at, it’sthrowing a party. And now, he’s got a bright, blank new L.A. canvas towork with. We asked artists, curators and critics to provide someguidance for Deitch’s new gig.


Time to pitch a MOCA reality show to one of the major networks now that you’re in L.A. The concept is your life: “ACK! The economy’s gone to shit so now I’m a newbie museum director.” During this 13-episode series viewers will watch you navigate museum politics, get lost in L.A. and schmooze with celebrities and art glitterati. Show title: Sink or Swim! The prize: Glory–and the USA’s best museum stays open.
-Paddy Johnson, Art Fag City

Deitch should expand his plans with James Franco and General Hospital and embrace Los Angeles’ soap opera scene. How about filming a couple of scenes at one of the museums? Surely there’s an evil twin/stolen baby/back from the dead/amnesia/murder mystery that can take place at MOCA. Imagine electrocuting mobster Sonny Corinthos with a Dan Flavin sculpture. Or his main henchman Jason Morgan has unfortunate meeting with the business end of a Giacometti sculpture to the back of his head. Or poor Lulu Spencer is crushed by a giant Serra installation. Or her brother Lucky fails to live up to his name and meets an untimely end when he is injured by an exploding Robert Gober Cigar sculpture. The possibilities are truly endless.
-Marissa Gluck, Curbed LA

I heard the LAPD has quite a few artists in their ranks. Maybe a “cop art” show? They could advertise it on the backs of police cars, next to the “There’s No Excuse for Domestic Violence” stickers.
-Aaron Rose, artist, writer and independent curator


The first thing Jeffrey Deitch should do is to have a insane big ArtParade bringing the whole city together, painting ourselves as Art fromMOCA downtown all the way down to Santa Monica, where we baptizeourselves in the Ocean as celebration. Second thing is to bringtogether artists from all around L.A., and paint the outside of CityHall from the base to the Tom Bradley Room at the top!

Then heshould pick a dozen contemporary artists and give each one access toone major Hollywood motion picture studio. Each creates an artperformance film using either their archives or production facilitiesand having a red carpet–or maybe blue, black, or green–premiere inconjunction with MOCA and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
-Gary Baseman, artist

As host of a show about design and architecture and region of a city in which the applied arts are a huge industry, I’d have to say that I hope Deitch does some imaginative shows about contemporary design and architecture. Plus I’d love to see some rethinking about the actual display of art. The white box is just so boring. Bring on some brilliant installation.
-Frances Anderton, KCRW’s DnA: Design and Architecture


Years ago the Christmas window displays in L.A.’s downtown department stores featured multimedia installations that drew huge crowds. So many people gathered that they blocked traffic. Despite the hopeful buzz of boosters, this vibrant and populated downtown is a culture as lost to us as that of the Toltec or the Maya. We know MOCA and Deitch Projects can bring stunning spectacles to art world sophisticates, but how about extravaganzas accessible to regular folks? We call on Jeffrey Deitch to see the potential in the empty storefronts surrounding MOCA and to transform them into zones of creative discovery.

L.A. still boasts one of the geniuses who created those 1950’s window spectacles: master puppeteer Bob Baker. Why not hook Bob up with Paul McCarthy and turn downtown’s windows into the weirdest high art puppet and monster shows anyone’s ever seen? Welcome to L.A., Mr. Deitch. Now let’s block some traffic, and blow some minds.
-Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, Esotouric bus adventures

MOCA needs a facelift. The relationship between the museum’s sunken entry courtyard and the adjacent surroundings has always struck me as counter intuitive. Jeffrey Deitch should run an open architectural design competition to mount a new floating entry and exhibition pavilion over the existing entry area to provide a more prominent face to Grand Avenue.
-Peter Zellner, architect, ZellnerPlus


A massive group show taking over all of MOCA that explores the extreme racial disparity in the art world and how it is mirrored in the extreme segregation of Los Angeles along racial lines. Deitch could scour L.A. for emerging and unknown contemporary African-American and Latino artists to fill the museum to attract a largely under-served segment of the market. The hip, super smart street/graf/urban show, centered of course around Kehinde Wiley (no one will question the old business connection since he’s one of the top African-American artists who will definitely attract loads of kids) will bring in a whole new audience into MOCA that generally gets ignored while generating huge revenue streams. He can stock the gift shop with music, posters, magazines, a half-pipe, t-shirts, and hats all designed by the hottest graf/street artists in L.A. and New York for corporate sponsors like Puma! (Deitch is excellent at getting corporate sponsorship.)

The socially conscious exhibition will finally help de-segregate Los Angeles through the utopian promise of art that for too long has gone unfulfilled. This will help Deitch deliver on his promise to attract the young, untapped audiences that will fill the museums coffers, while promoting real diversity in a city haunted by racial violence and the persistent problems of drugs, gang violence, and poverty that plague minority communities in L.A. For Deitch, this show could save MOCA and redeem the souls of white, rich men like Eli Broad. The show could then travel around the world bringing greater balance to the palid complexion of the art world.
-William Powhida, artist

Turn the MOCA Geffen Contemporary space into a permanent exhibition of the Cirque du Soleil in collaboration with Matthew Barney. Bjørk would make the soundtrack.
-Francois Ghebaly, Chung King Project


L.A. is 80 miles wide. It doesn’t need big centralized museums. Itneeds lots of small ones that travel. My advice: Deitch shouldrepurpose his gallery’s ice cream truck and hit the road with worksfrom the MOCA permanent collection. He could get a Twitter feed andupdate followers on his whereabouts. (Sample Tweet: “At Marukai Marketin Gardena eating Hawaiian plate lunch with several Jason Rhoadespieces from Swedish Erotica series. DM me for deets.”) In no time, I’mpositive he’d have more followers than the Kogi truck. (Okay, notreally, but I’m sure he’d be close.)
-Carolina A. Miranda, C-Monster

If MOCA is to survive, it has to expand its reach. MOCA needs tocreate new audiences by showing Angelenos how to understand thevocabulary, the grammar, the syntax and the historical context ofcontemporary art. MOCA must provide the public with the tools tounderstand what art is to develop an educated audience and collectorbase. Shows need to be curated by museum quality professionals usinglocal artists from local galleries to demonstrate how art can beformally understood though subject matter, color, composition,materials, the use of grids, patterns, lighting–and all the othervariants–in addition to considering the artist’s personal intent.

Theseshows should inhabit vacant stores in shopping areas to reach peoplewho do not attend art galleries or museums. The art should be for saleand the proceeds split equally among the artist, the non-profit spaceand the dealer.  And having the art pre-vetted by professionals willmake it easier for first time buyers to risk that first purchase andhave their first opportunity to live with a piece of art. Lastly, ifanyone is interested in any artist, they would be referred to theartist’s gallery, thus supporting the entire art food chain.
-Brady Westwater, LA Cowboy


How about pop-ups at gas stations where people sell carpets, statues, boxing ring bags and other detritus. All you need are some easels and a security guard.
-John Chase, Urban Designer, City of West Hollywood

Deitch should incorporate a subway/Metro element to the MOCA. Have an artist create a map for people to take around L.A. (can be downloaded or printed from MOCA website). Each participating Metro stop will have a theme or design that makes it a unique artistic destination and will also serve as locations for clues to an art mystery hunt leading to the museum. The buses or Metro cars could be wrapped or outfitted with images or graphics that are part of the hunt. They could either be trivia messaging, directions or clues leading to MOCA.

Once at MOCA, guests get a specially-designed postcard or prize showing they completed the hunt as well as a sticker they can wear. Museum could also have a photo booth that takes a photo of all participants who have completed the hunt and have it projected on a wall in the museum or on their site. The postcard/prize and sticker would only be for guests who took the Metro. Museum should encourage people to do this in groups. The more the merrier!
-Meg Wells, FLUX


Relaunch The Art Parade in L.A., running it through Bunker Hill. The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black should perform as a way of transitioning thetradition. Kembra Pfahler, TVHOKB leader and L.A. native, would replaceall her regular crew with MOCA board members. Eli Broad will playdrums, using the exhumed skull of John Fante as part of his kit.

Whystop with promoting “young” artists? Go for the fetal. In acollaboration with his new neighbors at the Walt Disney Concert Hall,Deitch could have pregnant artists ride skateboards on Gehry’sdying-to-be-a-skatepark walls while Dan Zanes blasts Black Randy and the Metrosquad covers from the roof of Deitch Project’s decommissioned ice cream truck (on blocks). Casey Spoonerwill be draped over the steering wheel, made up to look like he’s beenshot in the head. When Zanes hits the choruses, Spooner will lift hishead and sing harmony through a megaphone.
-Brent Burket, Brooklyn-based writer and curator, Heart As Arena
(He is totally bummed about Jeffrey Deitch leaving the East Coast. He frets that Snooki will be next.)

Ipropose that Jeffrey Deitch hold a series of open, public (real andvirtual) forums to directly engage and document the opinions, ideas andpassion that his appointment triggered. It could be streamed liveonline and then edited into a publication.
-Bettina Korek, ForYourArt


Jeffrey Deitch is the king of art in downtown New York City. As thenew director of MOCA, he will live in Los Angeles, which has severaldowntowns, depending on who you talk to. Deitch has expressed aninterest in bringing his world famous art parade to Los Angeles, whosefreeway systems are often referred to as the world’s largest parkinglot. I don’t believe a parade could move very far or fast here. Deitchalso claims that he is interested in attracting a “new, youngeraudience that is not a professional art-going audience, but that isvery interested in art.”

I propose Deitch host an art parade-likeevent to unite the city through art…but in the sky. It would be a dayof art for everyone. The MOCA would map out several downtown pointsacross the city and anchor them with clusters of hot air balloons. Eachballoon will represent one living artist in the area (i.e. ChuckArnoldi in Venice or Mister Cartoon in Downtown L.A.). Each “downtown”will have a path leading back to the MOCA with mapped out artdestinations to go to. It could be a day of “art on the run”–parttreasure hunt–all art, all day.
-Souris Hong-Porretta, Hustler of Culture

Deitch photo via Scribe Media


Got an idea for Deitch at MOCA? Bonus points if it includes Lady Gaga.


About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato


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