(KCRW) Eli Broad, billionaire philanthropist and founding chairman of the MOCA board of trustees, tries to answer the question posed in our headline. He wrote an op-ed in today’s LA Times defending museum director Jeffrey Deitch and the decision to part with longtime curator Paul Schimmel.
Broad argues that MOCA needs to be more thrifty and populist with its exhibitions:
In today’s economic environment, museums must be fiscally prudent and creative in presenting cost-effective, visually stimulating exhibitions that attract a broad audience. …
“I applaud the decision of MOCA’s director, board leadership and board in right-sizing the staff and adopting a budget that they expect will be balanced in the coming year and in future years.
I am confident that with Deitch’s leadership and with the board and its leadership, MOCA will thrive and will avoid the problems that are plaguing other institutions while increasing attendance and membership, continuing to offer world-class exhibitions, and exhibiting its collection.”
Lee Rosenbaum of Art Journal was unnerved by Broad’s business-first approach to curating – and his assuming the position of “spokesperson” for the museum in “a time of crisis”:
“So we go from “great exhibitions” conceived by a “brilliant curator” to “cost-effective, visually stimulating” ones, with broad popular appeal. I have never heard a museum professional use the strange metric of cost-per-visitor to assess an exhibition’s merits. Prioritizing attendance and “cost-effectiveness” over curatorial brilliance is a very slippery slope.“