New MOCA chief Philippe Vergne lays out his vision in first interview

MOCA 's newly appointed director, Philippe Vergne, talks about his vision for the museum.
MOCA ‘s newly appointed director, Philippe Vergne, talks about his vision for the museum.
(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

The Museum of Contemporary Art named Philippe Vergne as its new museum director late Wednesday, and in his first interview after the announcement, Vergne talked about his work to date and what he hopes to bring to MOCA.

“The artists and ideas I’ve committed to over the years are the embodiment of my vision, which is to work with the most important artists of our time, the artists who really change the way we think about art and who’ve had a deep impact on art history,” said the French-born Vergne, 47, director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York for the last five years.

“My vision is to commit to the most experimental artists of our time, but also to contextualize their work within a broader context. And I think MOCA’s collection is one of the best to contextualize that kind of experimentation, to bring to the public the most important and groundbreaking artists who are working today, and using the collection to give them context.”


MOCA said its board of trustees was unanimous in its decision. On his appointment, Vergne simply said: “It is wonderful for me and I hope for Los Angeles.”


Vergne replaces Jeffrey Deitch, who announced his departure in July after a rocky tenure at the museum. Deitch came to MOCA as a successful New York art dealer and advisor with little nonprofit leadership experience. Artists John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha resigned from the MOCA board in 2012, criticizing the direction the museum was headed under Deitch. All were part of the 14-person search committee to replace him.

After years of financial instability, including budget and staffing cuts, MOCA announced this month that it had enough pledges to meet its $100-million endowment goal and was raising its target to $150 million.

Though he served as chief curator and deputy director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, director of the Francois Pinault Foundation in Paris and director of the Musée d’art Contemporain (MAC) in Marseille, France, some have questioned Vergne’s fundraising abilities.

GRAPHIC: Highest-earning art executives

In its announcement, however, MOCA emphasized Vergne’s curatorial strengths and his “strong fundraising skills.”

Vergne said he was confident about his fundraising abilities.

“The proof is in the pudding and soon you will see it,” he said, adding that his track record speaks for itself. “We’ve raised significant money in a very discrete way to secure the institution, the Dia Art Foundation.

“Significant resources were raised for the Dia: Beacon. ... The budget has been balanced for as long as I have been at Dia. You will see very soon that the efforts and fundraising results [at Dia] are bearing fruits.”


Garcetti meets arts leaders to brainstorm, urge fresh thinking

Minnesota Orchestra ends labor lockout with three-year contract

Metropolitan Museum of Art to name costume institute for Anna Wintour