An Exclusive Interview With MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch
By Bruce Edwin
Jeffrey Deitch (pronounced die-tch) is a world renowned art collector, curator, and dealer in modern and contemporary art, as well as a former advisor to private and institutional art collectors. He also formerly served as an art writer and exhibition organizer. Prior to opening his own art advisory firm in 1988, Mr. Deitch was a Vice President of Citibank where he spent nine years developing and managing the bank’s art advisory and art finance businesses. Before joining Citibank, he was the Assistant Director of the John Weber Gallery in New York and then the Curator of the De Cordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
Jeffrey Deitch is a 1974 graduate of Wesleyan University, and was a member of its Board of Trustees from 1982-85. He received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1978. Mr. Deitch has been active as an art critic and exhibition curator since the mid 1970s. He has contributed to Arts, Art in America, Artforum, and numerous other publications, and served as the first American Editor of Flash Art. He received an Art Critic’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1979. He has written numerous catalogue essays including projects for the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Whitney Museum, New York. His essay 'The Art Industry' was included in the catalogue for the Metropolis, exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin in 1991.
Jeffrey Deitch’s first important curatorial project was Lives, a 1975 exhibition about artists who used their own lives as an art medium. It was presented in a vacant office building in Tribeca. He has curated several exhibitions of contemporary art for the Deste Foundation in Athens including Cultural Geometry in 1988, Artificial Nature in 1990, Everything That’s Interesting Is New in 1996, and Fractured Figure in 2007. He was a member of the curatorial team for the Deste Foundation’s Monument to Now exhibition in 2004. He curated the exhibition Strange Abstraction for the Touko Museum in Tokyo in 1991. His ambitious exhibition; Post Human, opened at the FAE Musée d’Art Contemporain in Lausanne in June 1992, and travelled to the Castello di Rivoli in Torino, the Deste Foundation in Athens, the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He also curated one of the sections of Aperto at the 1993 Venice Biennale. In 2001, he curated Form Follows Fiction at the Castello di Rivoli, Torino.
Jeffrey Deitch opened a public gallery, Deitch Projects, in 1996, which has produced more than two hundred projects by contemporary artists. Jeffrey Deitch Inc. is a member of the Art Dealers Association of America.
Throughout the eighties and mid-nineties, Jeffrey Deitch was a highly successful private dealer and art adviser to a number of top collectors. In 1989, he bid $10.5 million and paid $11.55 million for Jackson Pollock's silvery No. 8, 1950, then a record at auction for a work by the artist and the second-highest price at auction for a work by any contemporary artist.
Known as a tough, yet brilliant dealer, Mr. Deitch helped raise the value of his clients works' including the value of artists including Andy Warhol among many others. In 2006, he reportedly bought Bridget Riley's Untitled 'Diagonal Curve', 1966, at Sotheby's for $2.1M, nearly three times its $730,000 appraisal.
In addition to helping many emerging street / graffiti, underground, punk, new wave, and other avant-garde artists break ground, he also representing the work of more established artists including Keith Haring and Jeff Koons. Jeffrey Deitch was also a close friend of famed artist Jean-Michael Basquiat, who frequented with some of Andy Warhol's factory scene. Mr. Deitch reportedly helped make Basquiat, letting him live in his basement flat in New York City at the time, to paint.
In 2010, Jeffrey closed Deitch Projects in order to become the director of MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art, in Los Angeles, which is recognized as one of the most important and innovative art institutions in the world.
I got the memo that Jeffrey Deitch was going to be in person for the recent MOCA West event for the new Ben Stein exhibition, by invitation only, and so, I was there. Ben and I had just spoken - which I will share with you in an upcoming issue. Ben Stein is a talented artist, and a very cordial and well spoken young man.
I begin by stating to Jeffrey Deitch how I was pleased to hear about the Kenneth Anger art works I read MOCA will be unveiling. Jeffrey seemed pleased with this recognition of the artist, and mentioned how the works were a continuance of a full show he had done of the artist a number of years prior.
Instead of attempting to explain to those of who you are not familiar with Kenneth Anger about the iconic avant-garde figure, I will 'show you' a small segment of his work here below. One of the most enigmatic, original, groundbreaking, and widely under-reported, yet most widely influential fillmakers of all time; the author, photographer, filmmaker, and occult rebel has been making films since the early 1940's. Further, his seminal books, Hollywood Babylon helped further usher in the dawn of tabloid infotainment and hard boiled entertainment news journalism.
Jeffrey Deitch: (....) When I came here, I wanted to do a big exhibition called 'The Artist's Museum,' of all the significant artists of the past 30 years in L.A., a 30 year history, and I said, well let's include Kenneth Anger! And one of the curators said, 'Kenneth Anger?! I don't think he lives in L.A.! And another curator said, well, is he still alive?! And then I said, well, find out! And then they came back and said "Well, no, no, Kenneth Anger doesn't live in L.A., he lives in London," and I said, "Well alright, O.K." And then, we didn't put him in that show, and then, months go by, and I meet more people here, and they start talking about Kenneth Anger, and I found out—Kenneth Anger has lived in L.A... since he was born! (we both laugh) And that he is very much around, and people said, well he is 84 years old but he's totally on, he's doing new work, but unfortunately—living in obscurity, you know, not much money coming in ... You know, this is arguably 'thee inventor' of independent cinema...
Bruce Edwin: Exactly.
Jeffrey Deitch: This is an amazing figure! So I managed to find him, and found out there is a terrific young guy named Brian Butler, who is his general assistant and manager, who has a company called 'Anger Management...' (We both laugh)
Bruce Edwin: Yes, I recall that...
Jeffrey Deitch: And so I got to meet Kenneth, invite him over to my house, and he looks just like he looked in those films from sixty years ago, you know he looks great, he wore this seersucker suit, a tie a twenty golf hat, and Brian told me, he doesn't say much, don't get worried if he doesn't say much. But we got along, and I invited him to have this show and it was very meaningful for me, because Kenneth Anger—his whole career, living here in L.A., never had a museum show in Los Angeles.
Bruce Edwin: Really?! Wow!
Jeffrey Deitch: So what an honor for us to give Kenneth Anger his first museum show.
Bruce Edwin: It is.
Jeffrey Deitch: And it was curated with one of our MOCA curators—Bennett Simpson. But Kenneth really conceived of the whole project himself. It was actually more of an artists' project. And he directed the installation which was a room with a red carpet, red vinyl walls, and a pentagramed shape installation of the screens, and it was really neat that he figured out, so all of his major films were projected, but one at a time. And the rest of this room was this still image, and people would sit on the red carpet in front of the screen that was playing the film, and then people would stay for a few hours to go through the entire cycle of this, and this pentagram shape embodied his deep interest in the occult. And in the other section was introduced the world of 'Hollywood Babylon,' and his collections of Hollywood memorabilia.
Bruce Edwin: Yes.
Jeffrey Deitch: And his obsession of a particular star (...) and it included absolutely beautiful drawings—the storyboards from 'Puce Moment' from 1949. And I couldn't believe I was seeing this with my eyes! And we were very lucky that Kenneth gave them to us for a very reasonable price, and we bought them for the museum's permanent collection, and that was a very happy result, an ongoing result. And for me it was a wonderful experience to be able to go down and view those films almost every day, and it was a great vibe. And it was only years and years ago, we saw some of those in the theatre, but basically I had been watching them on DVD, and it was terrific to see a great presentation, it was terrific!
Bruce Edwin: That's amazing.
Jeffrey Deitch: And David Lachapelle* (1) came by one day. We were looking at the 'Kustom Kar Kommandos' (Anger, motion picture,1965, party funded by The Ford Foundation; editor) (...), and he said you know, looking at this, he said, "This Kenneth Anger really invented the music video," and you could make a case for that, using found popular songs. So it was a really profound experience to work with Kenneth, and present the show, and it was something amazing. Opening night; Kenneth and Brian performed with their band, * (2) and Kenneth played the Theremin.
Bruce Edwin: I have a documentary on the creator of the Theremin.* (3)
Jeffrey Deitch: Exactly. Yeah, so that was fantastic.
Bruce Edwin: I am looking forward to the pieces you have now of his work.
Jeffrey Deitch: Yeah, you'll see them in the permanent collection.
Bruce Edwin: That's wonderful.
Jeffrey Deitch: OK!
Bruce Edwin: Well, thank you Jeffrey, I love your aesthetic and taste, it's wonderful.
Jeffrey Deitch: Thank you.
* 1, David Lachapelle is an American music and video director, and surreal and pop fine art photographer. He found fame as a commercial and celebrity photographer in the 80's, when he was began working for Andy Warhol's magazine, Interview.
*2, The band formed by Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler is called Technicolor Skull, with Brian on electronic programming and guitar, and Kenneth Anger on the Theremin.
*3, The Theremin is a musical instrument initially developed by the Russian inventor; Lev Sergeevich Termen (known as Leon Theremin in English) in October 1920, funded by the former Russian Empire for their research in to devices that can identify objects by proximity, but without touching them, during the Russian Civil War. The sound of the Theremin is often noted as eerie, and is played by moving ones hands near it's central rod, and twisting knobs. The Theremin has been used by numerous musicians including the legendary psychedelic band Hawkwind, Nik Turner, and film composers including the legendary Bernard Herman among more.
MOCA On Anger
According to MOCA, "The Kenneth Anger exhibition showcased the films, archives, and vision of Kenneth Anger (b. 1927, Santa Monica, California; who lives and works in Los Angeles). They noted him as "one of the most original filmmakers of American cinema, and a defining presence of underground art and culture and a major influence on generations of filmmakers, musicians, and artists." The works purchased by MOCA referenced by Mr. Deitch above, will be in exhibition later this year in 2013.
Fischer at MOCA
Review by Guadulesa
MOCA and Urs Fischer pair up to present a walk through the artist’s psyche. The exploration feels like total immersion, and yet we seem to know that Mr. Fischer’s statement never ends. The passage of time and the natural decay of form bring Art into the rhythm of Life as an entity of its own. The viewer accepts Mr. Fischer’s invitation to be astonished. This show should not be missed! Urs Fischer at MOCA until August 19, 2013.
MOCA Brings Bjork
The Museum of Contemporary Art announced this month that it will collaborate with the legendary singer and recording artist Björk to present the first Biophilia Education Program in Los Angeles, continuing the museum's record of innovation and acclaim in arts education. The one-day Biophilia Education Program will take place on Sunday, June 2, 2013 as part of MOCA's Big Family Day and will be free and open to the public. The Biophilia Education Program at MOCA will coincide with the return of Biophilia to North America with three live, in-the-round performances at the Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles on June 2nd, 5th, and 8th, 2013.
"It is very exciting for MOCA to be able to provide its community of schoolchildren with the opportunity to participate in Björk's acclaimed, multi-disciplinary Biophilia Education Program," stated MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch. "The opportunity to explore creativity through music, science, nature and new technology is vital to the understanding and practice of contemporary art."
The Biophilia Education Program aims to inspire children to explore their own creativity, and to learn about music, nature and science through new technologies. Suitable for children aged 9-14 years, the Biophilia workshops are based on Björk's Biophilia smart phone application suites of music, as well as interactive, educational artifacts, which will accompany the Biophilia live show.
The live performance will see Björk accompanied by a set of unique musical instruments created by a team including an Icelandic organ builder and a graduate of the MIT Media Lab. Among the creations are four 10-foot pendulum-harps, a MIDI-controlled pipe organ celeste re-fitted with bronze gamelan bars, and twin musical Tesla coils (based on famed inventor Nikola Tesla's invention). The performance will also feature an award-winning 24-piece Icelandic female choir and visuals from the Biophilia Applications, along with musicians including Manu Delagu and musical director Matt Robertson.
A pioneer in arts education, MOCA presents award-winning programming that benefits adults, families, students, and community members of all ages and backgrounds. This new education collaboration between MOCA with Björk follows MOCA T.V.'s recent and exclusive presentation of Björk's Mutual Core video, which won the People Voice Webby Award for the Best Music / Online Film & Video this year.
Dates for the return of Björk's Biophilia live show to North America include three shows in San Francisco and three at the Hollywood Palladium where they have been set to her original Biophilia specifications as audio-visual shows in an intimate, in-the-round setting. Björk will also appear at the Hollywood Bowl on June 11 along with three festival appearances: headlining the eighth annual Pitchfork Festival on July 19th, Bonnaroo on June 15th and the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa, on July 13th, 2013.
Founded in 1979, MOCA is the only museum in Los Angeles devoted exclusively to contemporary art. It is committed to the collection, presentation, and interpretation of work produced since 1940 in all media, and to preserving that work for future generations. In a remarkably short time, MOCA has developed one of the nation's most renowned permanent collections. Now numbering over 5,000 works and steadily growing, this invaluable cultural resource provides extensive opportunities for education and enjoyment to thousands of national and international visitors. Today the museum is housed in three unique facilities: MOCA Grand Avenue, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, and MOCA Pacific Design Center. Source (MOCA dot org).
Living American Masters: Chicago Artist Costel "Iarca"
A native of Romania, Iarca studied painting and sculpture at The School of Popular Arts prior to pursuing a degree from The University of Theology. Before coming to the USA, he taught Religion and History to elementary school children. Since 1995, he has been exhibiting in Chicagoland and Soho, New York.
Iarca states, "From my hard-working middle-class Romanian family, I learned human dignity and persistence." He continues, " Because I believe in the life of spirit, my art comes from my soul, my inspiration from the world. I use much blue, not only for the sky and sea, but for the soul’s striving toward the infinite. For me, green is hope; red, love; yellow, warmth, light, life—God. Color reflects the soul’s beauty though it is circumscribed by the body. My emotions fuel the squares, curves, and the textures of my canvases. The radical energy of my colors reminds me simultaneously of life and death. Both are our destiny."
In explaining his work further, Iarca reveals, "I pull my ideas from day-to-day life. Because I experience strong emotions while painting, I express them in strange shapes and brilliant vibrant colors. Sometimes I experience elation; nervousness and anxiety when my dreams seem to vanish into thin air. Yet, the tornadoes of life cannot kill my spirit. I believe in myself; I believe in my work. I believe in the potential of each new day. Knowing about thee difficult lives of others, drives me to paint with passion. I love the work of those who have gone before me, especially Picasso, Leger, Klee, van Gogh, Matisse, and Giacometti. Because I constantly attempt not only to integrate but to transcend their learning, I believe my unique signature has evolved in my own work through my discovery of mixing caulking and acrylic paints to create a three-dimensional, textural, woven effect. As creative human beings, we simultaneously incorporate and transcend the past."
"My philosophy of art is mirrored in my paintings: Since no human being is perfect, only God can create perfection. Our world is ever-changing, resulting in new phenomena, new events, turbulences, mutations. All creation is process. The art of the human reflects this evolving process. Thus, there is no 'bottom line' in art. A painting, it seems to me, is always incomplete; that very incompleteness makes the creation of works of art fascinating and compelling, nudging us to reflect on the perfection / imperfection of the things of the world, urging me to strive for both what has been and is not - yet. In creating a painting, I experience myself at the center of an evolving, dynamic universe."
Iarca reveals, "My use of straight or curved black lines has been central to my art. These lines have morphed into the wild three-dimensional lines of my experiments with of caulking and acrylics. The caulking lines not only add depth and texture, but their lines both connect 'and' separate. Imaginary or physical, lines simultaneously limit 'and' lead to something else. Similarly, the line between soul and body is imaginary. Our human predicament is both to acknowledge our limits as well as to strive to transcend them. I have absolute confidence in my vision, in my drive, in my art. My painting makes me a creator in this vibrant, creative universe. ART IS HUMAN MAGIC."
To see more work by Iarca, and visit his online gallery, visit his official website at:
This article and interview is ©2013, The Hollywood Sentinel, Bruce Edwin, All rights reserved. Works consulted: Kenneth Anger dot org, Technicolor Skull dot com, MOCA dot org, Deitch Projects (Deitch dot com), David Lachapelle dot com, subnormal magazine archives, et al. These contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written permission of author who may be contacted at The Hollywood Sentinel.