With the nature and kudos of the institution constantly changing and remoulding itself, (Gloriana Riggioni’s article for Spoonfed tackles the challenges the Tate Modern faces as The Tanks, opening this week, answers our apparent latest requirement for live performance art), it is no wonder that some folk on the boards of various institutions aren’t always going to be smiley-faced about things. And there is no doubt that the future holds some interesting demands and challenges for the cultural institutions globally.
But strong changes in the running of the MOCA in LA didn’t stop Catherine Opie and Barbara Kruger recently resigning from the board of MOCA, along with John Baldessari before them and shortly after highly regarded chief curator, Paul Schimmel was recently forced to resign. The firing of curatorial assistants along with educational program manager, Aandrea Stang, also influenced their decision to resign.
Lack of communication with the artists, (Ed Ruscha is the only artist now on the board), less of a concern on the curatorial practice it had established itself on and a stronger concern with celebrity and fashion were some of the reasons stated for both of them stepping down. Both Opie and Kruger are known for their political messages within their art. Their letter below was published online by LAtimes.com
‘We want the best for MOCA. We want it to remain the globally respected institution it has become. We want it to continue its intellectually ambitious and visually compelling exhibition program. We have voiced these concerns at meeting after meeting. Perhaps we have been heard. Perhaps we’ve been heard but hardly heeded.
Museums display the preferences of their leadership. Leaderships change. Things change. We’ve stuck around because MOCA is important to us. We had hoped that our stake in MOCA’s history and our hopes for its future were evident to the Board of Trustees and the various powers that be.
But this is not about a particular cast of characters, about good actors and bad. It’s a reflection of the crisis in cultural funding. It’s about the role of museums in a culture where visual art is marginalized except for the buzz around secondary market sales, it’s about the not so subtle recalibration of the meaning of “philanthropy,” and it’s about the morphing of the so-called “art world” into the only speculative bubble still left floating (for the next 20 minutes). Can important and serious exhibitions receive funding without a donor having a horse in the race? Is attendance a sustaining revenue stream for museums? Has it ever been? These are questions we have been asking.
We do know that a major rethinking of the mechanisms and templates for cultural funding is long overdue. Parties and galas are ok, but sometimes these things called “museums” have to have things called “exhibitions.” Our concerns are with the art, the exhibitions, and how the money that makes the exhibitions possible is gathered and distributed. Our concern is for a continued curatorial practice that is both rigorously complex and pleasurably awesome. Our concern is for a kind of transparency that allows for a Board of Trustees that is not surprised when bad things happen. And when they do, to face them with clarity, candor and intelligence. This requires honest and shared communication involving all the Board Members, not just a select few.
It has been an honor to serve on the Board. Artists and curators have long been the driving force that have made MOCA the esteemed and powerfully present Museum that it is. And the artist’s presence is felt not only in its great exhibition program and unrivaled collection, but on its Board. But now we wonder if our position on the Board is just symbolic and that our ability to be heard and to suggest and make change has become a kind of inconvenience to the instrumental workings of the Board. Perhaps we’re just not the appropriate artists to represent this current version of MOCA. Surely there are many others who could happily take our place. We have given it our all. Maybe it’s time get another group of artists onboard. One that is more in line with the hopes and wishes of today’s MOCA. We fully understand if that is the case and sadly leave the Board of a Museum that was like no other in the best of ways. And hopefully will remain so.