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Deitch Watch: LA MOCA, The Soap Opera

This is not a CultureGrrl parody. It’s an actual headline and photo from an authentic MOCA press release! (NOT kidding!)

Move over, Jerry Saltz. Jeffrey Deitch is coming to a boob tube near you.

From that most soap opera-ish of art museums (The profligate former director! The brash upstart director! The manipulative megabucks collector!) comes a soap opera-related press announcement from LA MOCA that had me rubbing my eyes. It hit my inbox (as all e-mails from that museum do) with a pop-up from my e-mail provider, warning me that “Thunderbird thinks this message might be an email scam.”

It does read like a spoof press release. But art-lings, this one’s for real (I think). The online version hails from the web address. Some excerpts:

MOCA announces the taping of a special
episode of ABC‘s Emmy Award-winning daytime drama General Hospital on the occasion of the return of character
Franco the artist, played by artist and actor James Franco, on the Pacific Design Plaza next to MOCA Pacific Design
Center. Conceived by James Franco as part of a performance work titled “SOAP at MOCA: James Franco on General
Hospital,” the taping will be observed by a select live audience. [I don’t think I’ll be “selected.”]

In this special episode, Franco, James Franco’s character from General Hospital, will be having an exhibition at
MOCA Pacific Design Center, during which time Jeffrey Deitch, the new director of MOCA, and the characters from
Port Charles from General Hospital wil [sic] be making their West Coast debut.

I assume this means that Deitch appears on the show, The wording of this press release is so murky that it’s hard to make sense of anything that’s going on in this sudsy enterprise.

But wait, there’s more:

The character’s [Franco’s] exhibition will include
full-scale models of the locations in which he encountered mobster Jason Morgan (Emmy winner Steve Burton).
To the musical accompaniment of his artistic collaborator Kalup Dashinel, played by critically acclaimed video and
performance artist Kalup Linzy [at least they kept the artist’s first name], who will perform live during the taping, Franco will attempt to lure Jason and others
into his art-trap [huh?]. If all goes to plan, mastermind Franco will turn both Jason Morgan’s life and his own death into art, a
performance to end all performances.

Will this nefarious “art-trap” also end Deitch’s performances? Does he get to keep his full name? Time (and the show’s airing on July 22) will tell.

I’ve already forced myself to sit through one episode of Bravo‘s The Next Great Artist reality show. Do I now have to endure a soap opera?

Speaking of Deitch, he is one of the artworld luminaries who contributed detailed, revelatory statements to the highly engrossing special section—The Museum
—of this summer’s issue of Artforum. This tour de force, overseen by Tim Griffin, represents his swan song as editor of the magazine. The essay by Deitch and many others are tagged: “As told to Tim Griffin.”

One of the nuggets that Deitch shares with Griffin is his belief that his recently shuttered commercial gallery, Deitch Projects, “operated as a private ICA [Institute of Contemporary Art]….It’s almost like I’ve been running my own private museum and using the art market to fund it.” Looked at from Jeffrey’s perspective, I guess almost any dealer—even Larry Gagosian (or maybe especially Larry Gagosian, with guest-curated shows of late Picasso and late Monet to his credit)—could make that strained claim.

Deitch also observes in Artforum that there is “great potential for [museum] parterships with luxury and consumer brands.” Could it be that Vuitton-at-MOCA may not have been a regrettable one-off, but a prototype? I’m hoping this is all just a bad dream (or maybe a loopy soap-opera episode).

an ArtsJournal blog