Philipp Kaiser, former senior curator of L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art, is stepping down after little more than a year as director of Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, the German publication Express reported Wednesday.
In submitting his resignation, Kaiser reportedly said that the decision was a difficult one, motivated solely by family reasons. The Express report Wednesday said that Kaiser’s work at Museum Ludwig had been well-received.
He becomes the fourth MOCA alumnus to resign from a museum directorship this year, including Jeffrey Deitch, who stepped down as MOCA’s director on Sept. 1.
MOCA’s search for Deitch’s successor began in late July, when the museum announced he was leaving and a search committee had been formed.
Unless MOCA is close to wrapping up a deal with a candidate, its search could grow harder. Two other major contemporary art museums are without directors -- the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam -- and now a fourth is in the talent hunt.
MOCA is led by interim director Maria Seferian. The Los Angeles attorney’s temporary appointment was announced two weeks ago; she said at the time that MOCA was hoping to identify a permanent director by year’s end.
Former MOCA director Richard Koshalek created the first contemporary art vacancy in June when he left the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn. He resigned after its board had vetoed funding for one of his chief projects: a $12.5-million inflatable bubble he’d proposed for its interior courtyard to house exhibitions and events.
Ann Goldstein resigned in August as director of the Stedelijk Museum, a post she’d taken up in January 2010, shortly after her departure from MOCA, where she’d been the longtime senior curator.
(When Goldstein left MOCA, Kaiser, who’d come to the L.A. museum in 2007, was promoted to the senior curator’s post.)
Kaiser was named director-designate of Museum Ludwig in August 2011, but didn’t assume the post until the fall of 2012. Since 2009, MOCA has had six curators depart through layoff or resignation, and none has been replaced. Two curators remain.
Kaiser, who hails from Bern, Switzerland, had an eventful last few months as a Southern California curator during the spring of 2012.
“Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974,” a sweeping historical survey of land art’s origins that he curated with UCLA art historian Miwon Kwon, opened in late May, and a month later the Kaiser-curated “Jack Goldstein x 10,000” opened at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach. Originally intended for MOCA, it was the first U.S. retrospective on the multifaceted L.A. artist who died in 2003.
Meanwhile, MOCA’s board is trying to complete a fundraising campaign to stablilize its finances by lifting the museum’s endowment from about $20 million to $100 million.
That sum, once fully in hand, could be expected to generate about $5 million a year for the museum’s operations, unless investment markets sink, which would reduce the endowment’s payout. At $5 million a year, the endowment would cover about a third to a quarter of MOCA’s recent operating budgets.
At last report, pledges received so far would boost the endowment past $80 million, but the timetable for receiving the pledges remained unclear. Large donations often are paid over a period of several years.
Even after a successful endowment campaign, MOCA’s board and new director will likely remain under considerable fundraising pressure if the aim is to quickly rebuild the museum’s professional staff and provide a busy program of exhibitions and educational offerings.