The board of the Museum of Contemporary Art on Wednesday appointed Maria Seferian, counsel to the museum since 2008, as interim director. In addition, the co-chairs of the board of trustees, TV writer and producer Maria Arena Bell and lawyer-producer David Johnson, will step down at the end of the year.
Seferian, a partner in the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, has been involved with the museum for about five years, she said. Over the last year — a tumultuous time at the museum, with financial difficulties and former director Jeffrey Deitch's departure in September — she has worked on its fundraising campaign and the search for a new director.
Launched in March when MOCA's ability to remain independent had come into question, the campaign aims to boost the endowment from about $20 million to $100 million.
The unpaid position of interim director is effective immediately, but Seferian will not be acting in a legal capacity, she said. She will continue to focus on fundraising and the director search.
"I believe in this institution and am committed to it and the city," Seferian said. "I'm here to help bring these final pieces together and close out these initiatives — and others. We've got some great things ahead."
"I'm also a donor," Seferian added. "That's a personal commitment I've made over the years. And now I'm donating my time."
Seferian also said that MOCA hopes to identify a permanent director by year's end. The director will be chosen from a pool of candidates that she said is international.
Part of Seferian's practice at Munger, Tolles & Olson has been counseling museums, galleries and other nonprofit organizations. She was involved in the USC takeover of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena announced Monday — described as a friendly "alliance" and "partnership."
MOCA's former director, Deitch, completed a little more than three years of his five-year contract. Deitch announced his departure in late July and officially stepped down Sept. 1.
Since then, the museum's development team, led by Veridiana Pontes, has overseen the museum's fundraising. The co-chairs of the endowment campaign, board members Jeffrey Soros and Eugenio Lopez, have steered those fundraising efforts. As of now, the museum has commitments that would put the endowment over the $80-million mark, Seferian said.
Johnson and Bell's terms as co-chairs of the MOCA board were the longest and second-longest ever, respectively. Johnson served for five and a half years and Bell for four and a half years. Their departures were first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.
They will officially exit their leadership positions at the end of 2013 but will remain on the board.