Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles Announces Co-Leader


LOS ANGELES — Johanna Burton, president of the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, has been appointed executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and now after a period of turmoil and administration, she will help lead the uprisings.

As general manager of the museum, Burton, 49, will take over management duties from Klaus Biesenbach, 55, who was hired as director from MoMA PS1 in Queens in 2019. As part of the reorganization, Biesenbach was appointed artistic director with the authority to focus on setting the museum’s artistic vision, overseeing exhibitions and collections. Announcing the appointment Thursday, the museum said the two directors would be equal and would work “in partnership”.

Burton will be the first woman to lead the museum since its founding in 1979. His appointment comes after a period of turmoil at the museum known as MOCA.

“I don’t think it’s a single job,” said MOCA president Maria Seferian. “I think this is the right model for us right now. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked 20 years ago and it won’t work 20 years from now, but now is the right moment for us.”

The museum announced a change earlier this year, including that Biesenbach will be its artistic director. The key comes less than three years after he arrived in Los Angeles, just as the museum did. Fought With a sharp drop in income caused by the pandemic, it has forced layoffs and layoffs to initiate, and has faced criticism for its lack of diversity in its workplace and exhibitions.

Shortly before Biesenbach was appointed artistic director, a senior curator resigned for resistance to diversity initiatives, and the human resources manager resigned, citing a “hostile” work environment.

MOCA opened in 1979 as a showroom for contemporary art in downtown Los Angeles. But it’s struggling to find its footing, as other museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Broad, dominate the area’s art scene.

At one point, in 2008, MOCA was on the verge of bankruptcy and philanthropist Eli Broad was considering merging with LACMA. who died Earlier this year, it stepped in with a $30 million bailout. But Broad then began building Broad across the street to showcase his own extensive collection of contemporary art. It soon eclipsed MOCA with its eye-catching pop-art exhibits.

Burton served as director and curator of education and public engagement at the New Museum in New York from 2013 to 2019 before moving to Ohio. Prior to that, he was director of the graduate program at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies and deputy director of Independent Study at the Whitney Museum.

The announcement presentation was not without problems. The museum has sought to control how news is broadcast, to set strict rules, including news outlets agreeing not to write a story if the appointment fails, as a condition to be named beforehand. The announcement never happened.

“In a nutshell, the message is right there with the weirdest corporate messages I’ve received in 40 years as a journalist,” said Christopher Knight, art critic of The Los Angeles Times. Wrote In an article on this post Thursday. “The business motif was paranoia.”


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