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New MOCA Director adds New York talent to LA arts scene

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Los Angeles Arts Weekend has been an excellent time to announce the appointment of a new director for the legendary Museum of Contemporary Art, located in downtown Los Angeles. On January 16, the MOCA Board of Directors announced that its search committee has selected Philippe Vergne to become the museum’s new director. Vergne is completing five years as director of the Dia Art Foundation, New York, where Los Angeles County Museum of Art CEO Michael Govan also came to the attention of the Los Angeles arts community.

Art experts polled at this weekend’s Los Angeles Art Show were in agreement that Vergne is respected but almost invisible in the world art community. That appears to be just what the MOCA directors have been seeking. A longtime co-worker of former MOCA Director Jeffery Deitch at Sotheby’s, Susan Barnett observed, “Jeffrey Deitch was larger than life.” The MOCA trustees shared that assessment but did not find it a match for their vision of the museum, prompting Deitch’s departure last July. The job of museum director is not an easy one. As Van Gough Museum Director Axel Rueger pointed out during his January 17 talk, “if everyone is happy, then you’re doing something wrong.”

The response of New York area gallery owner Abby Taylor reflects the most common view of Philippe Vergne in much of the art community. “We don’t even know his name,” noted Taylor when the subject came up at the Los Angeles Art Show. On a positive note, New York area art deal Michael Borghi reported “I’ve heard wonderful things about him. He’s done some good curatorial work and is a good fundraiser. He’s a wonderful choice for MOCA.” Another New Yorker will miss Vergne. Alix Sloan of Sloan Fine Art noted “L.A.’s stealing all the New York talent.”

Local art gallery owner Denis Bloch expressed confidence that MOCA’s collection is so outstanding, it will succeed regardless of who takes the museum’s top job. Said Bloch, “I love museums for what they have on the wall, not for the Director, so who cares.”

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