Artists Flee Los Angeles Museum Board, Deitch Draws Fire

“The departure in the past week of four prominent artists from the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles has fueled speculation that billionaire Eli Broad will step in and take over the 33-year-old institution. Four years ago, when MOCA was in financial distress, Broad agreed to give it $30 million. A turnaround that began that year, however, appears to have stalled under Jeffrey Deitch, the former New York gallery owner who was named chief executive of MOCA in January 2010.

The museum’s operating profits have declined, matching funds have gone unmatched and board members have quit. Critics have questioned whether Deitch’s knack for shows that attract large visitor numbers can offset what they see as his shortcomings in drawing donations.

“To be a director of a private museum today, one really has to be good at fundraising,” said Los Angeles philanthropist Jane Nathanson, who left MOCA’s board in March due to disagreement with the direction the museum was taking under Deitch’s leadership. “This is a wake-up call that MOCA will not survive the way it’s been run.”

Broad, co-founder of Los Angeles-based KB Home (KBH) (KBH), expressed his support for Deitch in a July 8 editorial in the Los Angeles Times. “MOCA will thrive and will avoid the problems that are plaguing other institutions,” he said.

Yet Broad, 79, also has been mentioned as a likely savior for MOCA. He has a personal interest in maintaining the health of a museum he co-founded and for which he will soon be an institutional neighbor. He is building a contemporary-art museum featuring his personal collection just two blocks from MOCA’s flagship downtown location. Known as The Broad, it is due to open in 2014.”