MCA Appoints Michael Darling as New Chief Curator

April 29, 2010 · Print This Article

The MCA Chicago announced today that Michael Darling, modern and contemporary curator at the Seattle Art Museum, will be its new James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. Darling will leave the Seattle Art Museum, where he’s worked since 2006, in July. Before that Darling worked at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Here’s an excerpt from the MCA’s press release:

Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, announced today that Michael Darling has been appointed the new James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, concluding a comprehensive international search. Darling is currently the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and plans to assume his new responsibilities at the MCA on July 12, 2010.

“Michael Darling is the perfect creative leader to evolve the MCA as a preeminent contemporary art destination in terms of reputation, influence, relevance, and visibility,” said Grynsztejn. “I am looking forward to joining with Michael to realize a compelling new vision for the MCA. We share the same goal to forge an artist-activated platform that engages audiences by producing art, ideas, community, and conversation around the creative process. His exhibitions and acquisitions are always innovative and relevant, yet grounded in a larger art historical framework, and fueled by his distinctive passion, knowledge and integrity.”

Darling said, “I am honored to lead the MCA’s curatorial team and to build on the museum’s momentum. I look forward to actively participating in the cultural community of Chicago — a world-class city with a long-standing appreciation for the vanguard — and balancing a local perspective with a global outlook. I am excited to advance the MCA’s tradition of groundbreaking exhibitions and programming into a 21st-century multidisciplinary museum model.”

And so on, blahbity blahbity press release so on. Although I think this is a fairly boring, business-as-usual kind of pick on the MCA’s part, my view was ameliorated somewhat by reading the glowing praise that respected arts writer Jen Graves of The Stranger has for Darling. She writes:

What distinguished Darling from the others was his genuine commitment to exploring and revealing the connections between here and abroad. He was seemingly at every opening, and his exhibitions and acquisitions reflect that he did not simply live and work here, he thought here.

Grave’s assessment strongly suggests that Darling will not be another “Chicago curator” in name only who dials it in from elsewhere. I’m sure he’ll be good at his job (what constitutes ‘failure’ when it comes to museum curation anyway?), but I find myself caring less and less about who holds what position at big institutions lately. In the three years that I’ve been living in Chicago, I’ve become way more interested in the curatorial programs of Chicago’s college and university spaces and nonprofit art centers, and in the plans and activities of the (relatively) unsung curators and administrators who work there. There’s just more room for interesting failures and fresh insights in those spaces (although they, like any organization, require increased funding, donations, membership and public support to keep doing good work). Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in but…my whole take on the “big news” of today is one big meh.

Michael Darling. Photo by Julian Calder.




L.A. Museum Professionals Weigh In On Deitch as New MOCA Head

January 14, 2010 · Print This Article

Jeffrey Deitch, via Los Angeles Times.

One aspect of Jeffrey Deitch’s startling appointment to the director’s post at L.A. MoCA that’s undeniably positive: it’s shining a harsh light on the role played by glitz, commercialism, business savvy and showmanship in today’s art museum–not to mention the contemporary art world as a whole. The appointment of a commercial gallery director to this top Museum post has put the issue front-and-center, fueling a much-needed public debate that’s taking place in the art press, the blogosphere, and even among friends and colleagues just sitting around shooting the shit.  That fact alone is inspiring, even if Deitch’s appointment may, for many, represent something quite the opposite of that.

L.A. Weekly has a feature article on Deitch’s appointment that quotes Gary Garrells, former Hammer Museum chief curator and current chief curator at SFMOMA, a former MoCA curator (speaking anonymously, natch), Andy Warhol Foundation president (and ex-L.A. City Councilmember) Joel Wachs, and MoCA board chair David G. Johnson, and others on the pros and cons of Deitch-as-Director.

All of the critical quotes are provided anonymously, of course. The ex-MoCA curator, for example, had this to say about the Deitch to MoCA transition:

“I am not worried about his commercial background, and can’t really judge what sort of management skills he has, but it is his aesthetic judgment that to me is the biggest disconnect. There is no artist on his roster that MOCA would show (the only possible exception is his newest, Tauba Auerbach). His eye seemed fairly in tune in the ’80s with Koons and Basquiat, etc., but since then he has not been a reliable arbiter of what is important in recent art. Way more flash than substance.”

Read the Weekly’s full article, written by Tom Christie,  here. (Via @artwhirled).




L.A. MOCA: Where Are They Now? + Rose Art Museum Symposium Tonight

March 16, 2009 · Print This Article

For those of you who’ve been following MOCA’s meltdown (see sidebar links to Meg’s previous posts on this subject)  and the Rose Art Museum’s deaccessioning debacle at Brandeis, there are a few interesting updates of the linkie sort I’d like to draw your attention to, in case you haven’t already seen them.

First, in the ‘where are they now’ category: two extensive, multi-part interviews with major MOCA players, one still hanging in there, the other out the door in a flash, have appeared within the last couple of weeks over at the Arts Journal blogs. Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes posts a four (!)-part interview with MOCA senior curator Paul Schimmel on the future of the institution, which sounds super-rosy and no less ambitious than before, according to Mr. Schimmel. Find ‘em here: Part one, part two, part three, and part four.

Next, there’s CultureGrrl aka Lee Rosenbaum’s two-part interview with Jeremy Strick about his post-MOCA post as the new director of the Nasher Museum: part one of her interview can be found here; part two, here. Strick seems to have landed very well, I must say; there’s hardly a speck of dust on him.

Lastly, the latest on The Rose Art Museum. From my understanding of the state of things now (mostly via this post on The Art Law Blog, which I got to via this one on Art Fag City), Brandeis has backpedaled from its original plans to sell off the Museum’s collection–now they’re saying that only “a limited number” of pieces will be sold “if the need arises in the future.” It’s anyone’s guess as to what’s true and what’s p.r. spin, but tonight, Monday March 16th, a symposium titled “Preserving Trust: Art and the Art Museum amidst Financial Crisis” will take place from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at The Rose Art Museum. You can view the discussion in real time, as it will also be streamed live, and posted on YouTube afterwards.  Here’s an excerpt from the Symposium blurb:

This symposium is prompted by the global controversy over the recently proposed closing of Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum and the selling of some or all of its permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, in order to meet general university financial needs. At a time of financial crisis, what is the utility of art and of museums, in universities and in other contexts? Is art the most dispensable and disposable of assets when times are tough? Conversely, might art and museums be understood as especially valuable at moments of economic and social distress, helping to remind a society of its core values, exposing citizens to cultural difference, and providing vital spaces for community-building and democratic debate?

Panelists include:

  • Claire Messud
  • Robert Pinsky
  • Stephen Greenblatt

Commentators include:

  • Katy Graddy
  • Dirck Roosevelt
  • Andreas Teuber
  • Brian Friedberg and Liz McDonough

Moderator: Mark Auslander
Note: The proceedings will be streamed live on the Cultural Production ustream channel, and also posted on YouTube. Co-coordinators: Mark Auslander, Dirck Roosevelt, Ramie Targoff, Andreas Teuber