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Keep the Frames: A Few Tips for MOCA Director Philippe Vergne

01/19/2014 01:13 pm ET | Updated Mar 21, 2014
  • John Seed Professor of Art and Art History, Mt. San Jacinto College

Dear Philippe Vergne,

Congratulations on your new position as the Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). I was a MOCA staff member in the early years -- first as a member of the installation crew, then as bookstore manager -- and I have an enduring love for the place.

You must be getting a lot of well-meaning advice right now, and I hope you won't mind if I offer you a few tips to aid you in your success. My advice is meant both to be helpful, but also to make you smile.

Here you go:

1: Keep the Frames

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MOCA Directors and Their Glasses: Koshalek, Strick, Deitch and Vergne

Over time, MOCA has alternated between Directors with round eyeglass frames and rectangular frames. MOCA's Founding Director Pontus Hulten vacillated between the two: could that be why he didn't last long? The rectangular frames work for you...

2: Cherish your curators

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Goldstein and Schimmel - The Dearly Departed: Photocollage by Photofunia. com

It goes without saying that one of MOCA's great strengths has been its curators. Honor the memory of your departed curators -- and support your existing curators -- by hiring more and supporting them in every way you can.

3: Los Angeles is not New York

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LA is not New York: Photocollage by Photofunia. com

MOCA has often inadvertently re-provinicialized itself by emphasizing New York and international artists while overlooking native talent. There are so many great artists here in Los Angeles ready for MOCA to shine the spotlight on them: don't overlook them.

4: Don't Underestimate the Broad

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The Broad is Coming: Photocollage by Photofunia. com

The Broad Museum -- scheduled to open this Fall -- is going to be a huge hit. The opportunities for MOCA to interact and piggyback are tremendous, but The Broad just might outshine MOCA if you aren't careful. I think of Mr. Broad as an immensely positive figure on the LA cultural scene and his museum is a healthy challenge to MOCA.

5: Street Art: Its been done...

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It's Been Done: Photocollage by Photofunia. com

Art in the Streets was a lot of fun: time to move on to something else now...

6: Avoid the "Olive Garden" syndrome...

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MOCA/Olive Garden: Photocollage by Photofunia. com

The artist Graydon Parrish recently commented on my Facebook status that contemporary art museums (OCAs) across the country strike him as being a kind of chain that offer a strikingly consistent menu of contemporary fare: "...like the Olive Garden." You should prove him wrong by added new flavors to the mix at MOCA, especially including contemporary representational painting. If you are still smiling, I had more to say about that in a previous blog.

Good luck and welcome!

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