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MOCA Responds to LA Times on Deitch&#146s Art Disposals

Selling art from one’s current gallery inventory after becoming a museum director? That’s fine and dandy with LA MOCA’s trustees.

Mike Boehm today posted an update on his LA Times story, which followed up on CultureGrrl‘s Wednesday post. I had revealed that Jeffrey Deitch intends to continue selling works that are currently in his gallery’s inventory after he assumes the museum’s directorship in June. Planning to recategorize those works from “inventory” to “private collection” once he closes his gallery, he argues that such “private-collection” sales would not constitute dealing—a practice explicitly prohibited by professional guidelines.

Boehm reports (scroll to bottom) that David
Johnson
, the board’s co-chair, issued this written statement in response
to the Times’ query:

The trustees understand that Jeffrey is a collector
and that he may occasionally sell works from his private collection from
time to time in compliance with his employment contract, and the
museum’s and the AAM [American Association of Museums] and AAMD [Association of Art Museum
Directors] guidelines.

The trustees are either missing the point or playing dumb. These are not merely “works from his private collection.” These are works from his current gallery inventory that he intends to transfer temporarily into the so-called “private collection,” in anticipation of selling them to defray business-related expenses. Is this “compliance” or is it misrepresentation? Whatever it is, it doesn’t pass the smell test.

It’s also time for MOCA to stop using its very strained interpretation of AAM and AAMD professional standards as a figleaf to cover dubious actions. There is nothing in the guidelines of either organization that specifically countenances this type of transaction.

To my mind, the prohibition against “dealing” does or should preclude such sales. At the very least, MOCA and Deitch need touch base with the organizations it cites, seeking specific guidance from them before invoking their names to justify such questionable dealings.

an ArtsJournal blog