MOCA clarifies JF Chen’s relationship to James Franco’s ‘Rebel’

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Earlier this week, Culture Monster wrote about the James Franco-conceived show, ‘Rebel,’ which will be presented by MOCA and on view at JF Chen, a large exhibition space owned by Hollywood antiques dealer JF Chen from May 15 to June 23.

For some, the choice to place an exhibit in a space owned by a dealer, albeit one of furniture and design objects and not the kind of artwork represented in ‘Rebel,’ prompted questions. Most notably, the Modern Art Notes blog wrote, ‘It’s extremely unusual — and perhaps unprecedented — for a museum to put an exhibition in a space owned by a dealer or to accept funds from a dealer to place an exhibition in a space he owns.’ The LA Observed blog took it a step further, putting the headline ‘MOCA gets in bed with dealer and James Franco’ on its story about the show.

But MOCA spokeswoman Lyn Winter said that Chen is not a financial contributor to the exhibit. Chen is an ‘in-kind donor” who “made the space available for the project at a reduced rate,” she said.

Writer Tyler Green at the Modern Art Notes blog has since amended his post. In addition to noting the in-kind donor arrangement, he trimmed his quote to read ‘It’s extremely unusual — and perhaps unprecedented — for a museum to put an exhibition in a space owned by a dealer.’ Those corrections are also reflected at the LA Observed blog post.


MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch, a prominent New York art dealer before coming west, has been closely watched since he took the position in 2010. MOCA was recently criticized by L.A. Times critic Christopher Knight for engaging the owner of high-end vintage clothing store Decades as a guest curator for a show at its Pacific Design Center branch focusing on the great L.A. fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (1922-1985).

As previously noted, ‘Rebel’ isn’t the first time JF Chen has opened his space to art shows or art-related events. In 2010, the art-radio collective dublab hosted a fundraiser in the space. More prominently, in conjunction with the Getty-spearheaded Pacific Standard Time, Chen invited the public last fall to view the exhibition ‘Collecting Eames, the JF Chen Collection.’


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-- Margaret Wappler