The artist-led group known as MOCA Mobilization is back.
The group, founded in 2008 by artists Cindy Bernard and Diana Thater, has posted online a petition calling for specific changes at the Museum of Contemporary Art, following a round of controversial layoffs and the resignations of all four artists on the board of trustees.
The petition, posted on Facebook and change.org with a goal of 1,500 signatures, calls for the museum to reverse its plans and fill its chief curator position, which has been vacant since the departure of Paul Schimmel.
It also asks the institution to bring new artists onto its board to replace those who have resigned. The group is not calling for any board or staff resignations.
“I think it’s really important when you’re approaching something like this to stay as positive as you can be,” said Cindy Bernard. “And I’m not comfortable dictating to the director what shows he should and should not do, but we do feel he should place more emphasis on fundraising and running the museum. You need that chief or senior curator to support the curatorial staff, provide a buffer between director and staff and to provide another voice if the director is himself curating.”
Bernard and Thater, both of whom have artworks in MOCA’s collection, first launched their Facebook-facilitated group in November 2008 when the museum, at the height of its financial crisis, faced the prospect of closing its doors or merging with another institution. At that time, there was also serious talk of deaccessioning a prized artwork.
MOCA Mobilization entered the fray with a rally and petitions, including a letter to the board signed by about 3,200 people expressing their desire to “maintain MOCA’s independence and to keep its collection intact and accessible to a wide and appreciative public.” That year, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad helped the museum avert a merger by stepping in with a pledge to donate $15 million and another $15 million in matching funds.
This time around, the artists’ group says its catalyst was not an immediate financial crisis but its sense that the museum’s leaders have lost sight of its historical mission and its “internationally renowned record of exhibitions.” Along with its request for a new chief curator, the MOCA Mobilization petition asks the board of trustees to “examine their own role” in contributing to MOCA’s problems and “educate themselves in non-profit governance.”
Bernard says this message is not meant to be directed specifically at Broad, the board member who appears to be behind many of the museum’s recent decisions.
“This crisis at MOCA cannot be reduced to any single person. It’s not just a [director] Jeffrey [Deitch] problem, not just an Eli [Broad] problem, and it wouldn’t even be fair to blame the current board of trustees,” she said. “It’s a complex set of issues that has evolved over years and has involved many people.”