Mat Gleason: MOCA’s Murakami Kool-Aid, 5-Minute Ceiling, & Fat Envelopes!

November 23, 2008 at 11:20 pm in Art, Driving, Food & Drink, LA, Media, Rants

Following on the heels of my earlier post about the troubled state of our local museums comes this opinion piece penned by Mat Gleason, publisher of the LA-based international art-industry publication Coagula.

He’s got some choice words–and, in his own scathing style, minces none–about MOCA‘s crisis, which Mike Boehm of the LA Times explains:“Los Angeles’ prestigious but chronically underfunded Museum of Contemporary Art has fallen into crisis. Museum Director Jeremy Strick said MOCA is seeking large cash infusions from donors, and this week he did not rule out the possibility of merging with another institution or sharing its collection of almost 6,000 artworks.”

In an industry glutted with bullshit, Gleason’s incisive writing (original post is here) is a refreshing dose of plain talk, and he doesn’t shrink from pointing fingers: “Look, this is terrible and no matter what can be done to resolve it, we have to step gingerly because we could easily lose it all if the next few months are not handled with delicate and deliberate measures.

Oh, wait, I said WE. Ooops, there I go again, clinging to the myth that this is OUR museum. The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art is a cultural country club masquerading as a public institution. There is zero transparency in the way this institution has been run. So many of its recent art shows have been little more than collaborations with art dealers that it cannot reasonably be assumed that this institution has been run to do anything but financially benefit friends and insiders.

Since MOCA is a California non-profit educational institution, the State of California must immediately look into how this corporation has allocated its money. If this place is broke, one reason might be envelopes of cash. The integrity of this institution is at question. Its Board of Trustees have obviously looked to the Museum cabal of Jeremy Strick and Paul Schimmel as a two-headed Jim Jones, drinking the Murakami and Kippenberger kool-aid while art dealers were too damn nearby to not make a buck on the back of this museum.”

Click through for more.

“They are closing the Geffen Building for six months? HA! It will not be reopened in June and maybe never. The Geffen has a 3-minute roof – its old lumber ceiling will burn up in 3 minutes – ever notice they never exhibit any art there that is worth more than a few hundred grand? Why? Insurers look at things like fires burning up expensive paintings. MOCA is not allowed to show its collection in its own building!!!! MOCA admins have known this for years – they learned about when they tried to put in a coffee shop in the Geffen. They could have spent the money to make the Geffen fireproof in order to give Los Angeles a showcase for their fabulous encyclopedic collection of postwar art. But instead they installed a Luis Vuitton boutique in the museum and let the retailer keep all the money.

Sure they did, no envelopes of cash floating around this noble set of museum administrators – of course, maybe they ARE too stupid to embezzle, shill dough, launder money and other painfully apparent practices that go on behind the scenes when the money suddenly disappears during the same year that there were lines around the building for the Murakami show, that there was a $1200 per ticket Kanye West concert at the museum – the same year?

The bottom line here is that we cannot trust the cabal controlling MOCA to have been operating this institution for the benefit of the museum – the self-interest of some of the powers that be has been put before the best interests of the institution. A full investigation is warranted.

Of course, this brings new meaning to the old name for the Geffen: The Temporary Contemporary. MOCA will be gone soon, swallowed by another institution and the financial crimes that were committed with donated money will disappear from art history.”

–Mat Gleason

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