The recent exhibition Transmission LA: AV Club at the MOCA Geffen space had tiny disasters all around it, some hidden from view and some out in the open. Mat Gleason, in a Huffington Post article, details one such mess (Do Corporate Sponsors at MOCA Have Censorship Authority?) and I have heard of others, albeit as anecdotes rather than as testimony. To be sure, no institution is clean. As people we tend toward laziness and corruption, and the people who run the cultural world are no better. But, seeing a trustee’s name on work loaned to an exhibition which might in turn raise the value of said work is petty compared to leasing out the most esteemed exhibition space in the city to feature a product – in this case a Mercedes-Benz luxury automobile – as a work of art. And to then edit the work of participating artists to suit the sponsor adds injurious insult on top of already insulting mendacity. An audience will have no way of knowing that they are looking at objects designed only to remove from them their money. They will think they are seeing evidence of “the best that has been thought and written in the world,” or at least there was a time when they would, and could. Possibly that ship has already sailed, and MOCA, not any longer being THE Museum of Contemporary Art is no longer even A Museum at all.
The shame of the Street Art show is another among the pandering and opportunistic acts of this putative Director. (Director? Really? Directors raise funds, $$$$$ and patrons are the Director’s first job. Deitch is a curating party boy, and a wannabee at that. The Development staff nearly all walked out en masse when young Jeff arrived and I have not heard many positive notes on the endowment or operating funds accounting since then.) The museum (which at the time of Art in the Streets still was the museum of record for contemporary art) had the chance to explore in public a vital and emotional part of our world. Graffiti and street art have blighted as well as blessed our city for fifty and more years and what MOCA came up with was art they had to remove, canned, denatured revolution and the piteous wailings of self-promotion among a crowd of spoiled boys and men. I visited the exhibition, and driving from my home on Melrose I saw painted on walls and curbs and street signs more elegant, angrier and BETTER art than I saw at the museum. Sad. I really do want to know more about the subject and now I probably will not have the chance. The city and the art worlds lose out.
This has to be stopped. Culture is too valuable and too hard to make.