Following months of turmoil, including the firing of its chief curator and the announced departure of its current director, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles has chosen as its next director Klaus Biesenbach, now chief curator at large at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and director of its experimental satellite space, MoMA PS1.
“He’s a total visionary,” MOCA board president Maria Seferian said in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times. He’s an incredible museum executive. He’s innovative. He’s done it all.”
Some MOCA critics had hoped the museum would choose a director who reflected the racial diversity of the city or who addressed the under-representation of women in museum leadership nationwide. But the appointment of Biesenbach won praise from other quarters, including photographer Catherine Opie, who serves as one of MOCA’s artist board members, was involved in the search and said she was “kicking my heels.
“He is really known for championing emerging artists and MOCA holds dearly to that as the artists’ museum,” Opie said. “That is something Klaus feels very strongly about as well.”
The board reviewed nearly 40 candidates from an international pool before offering the job to Biesenbach. He won unanimous board approval Tuesday morning.
“I’m very excited,” Biesenbach told The Times by phone from New York. “I feel very honored and grateful.”
In turning to an established figure in the New York and European art scene, the museum seems intent on sending the message that its recent period of internal disarray is now in the past, according to The Times.
The announcement follows a season of tumult at the museum, including a canceled fundraising gala, the firing of chief curator Helen Molesworth and the abrupt announcement that director Philippe Vergne would not be renewing his contract.
In February, Los Angeles painter Lari Pittman announced his resignation from MOCA’s board and described a fractious environment at the museum.
“What my resignation implies is an individual and personal vote of no confidence in the relationship between the board and the director and the director and the board, between the board and the curatorial team and between the directorship and the curatorial [team] — in other words, it’s in every direction,” Pittman told The Times.