MOCA Appoints Phillipe Vergne New Museum Director

MOCA, the renowned Museum of Contemporary Art of Los Angeles, has named their new museum director, following the resignation of the famed curator and director; Jeffrey Deitch, reports artist Caryl M. Christian Levy for The Hollywood Sentinel. With three branch locations throughout Los Angeles, MOCA is one of the largest and most powerful modern art museums in the world.

Following a worldwide search led by a 14-member committee, The Board of Trustees of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) announced that it has voted unanimously to appoint Philippe Vergne as the museum’s director. Mr. Vergne succeeds Jeffrey Deitch, who resigned from MOCA on September 1, 2013. One of the most powerful persons in the art world, Jeffrey Deitch gave MOCA a rare, unique presence in the art world with a daring and brilliant taste and style of new acquisitions and shows.

Rejecting the easel, Jackson Pollock employed such unconventional tools as sticks, trowels, knives, and meatbasters to apply paint to canvases that lay directly on his studio floor. Controlling the distribution of paint by curtailing his own movements while splattering it onto the canvas, he choreographed a rhythmic application of color for each work. This unique method became known as Action painting, and its followers held that the act of making a work is inherent to its meaning. Number 1, 1949 was made with thinned paint and cans of commercial enamel. For it and other works of this period, Pollock rejected single points of reference and figural representation to create completely abstract all-over compositions.

MOCA is the only independent, artist-founded museum in Los Angeles dedicated solely to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art and has one of the most important collections of contemporary art in the world now comprising more than 6,800 objects, a history of diverse, ground-breaking and scholarly exhibitions, many of which have travelled internationally, three Los Angeles locations of architectural renown, and a stronger financial base than ever before in its history.

MOCA states that “Mr. Vergne who most recently served for five years as director of the Dia Art Foundation, New York has built an international reputation as a successful and committed museum leader with a deep knowledge of contemporary art, a respected curatorial vision, close relationships with artists and the international contemporary art community and strong fundraising skills.” Prior to leading the Dia Foundation, Mr. Vergne held leadership roles as Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where he worked for over a decade organizing more than 25 international exhibitions as well as artist residencies and the Herzog & de Meuron facility expansion; as Director of the Francois Pinault Foundation in Paris; and as Director of the Musee d’art Contemporain (MAC) in Marseille, France.

Mr. Vergne’s recent institutional accomplishments include the rebuilding and transformation of the Dia Art Foundation, achieved by successfully stewarding and developing its board, fundraising for operations and capital projects, instituting long-range planning and cultivating close relationships with artist and donor communities. Since 1992 Mr. Vergne has organized and curated monographic, group and thematic exhibitions at major institutions around the world including, among others for Carl Andre, Yves Klein, Thomas Hirschhorn, Huang Yong Ping and Kara Walker and in 2006, Mr. Vergne co-curated the Whitney Biennial with Chrissie Iles. Mr. Vergne has edited and contributed essays to numerous books and catalogues, and has written for major art magazines. He is also a frequent lecturer. In 1988, Mr. Vergne received a bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Paris II, Assas and in 1989, he received a BA in archeology and the history of modern art from the University of Paris IV, Sorbonne, where he continued his art history studies, earning an MA (1991) and a Diplome d’Etudes Approfondies (first doctoral diploma) (1992).

Mr. Vergne’s appointment follows a careful and wide-reaching international search which began in July this year spearheaded by a 14-member search committee led by MOCA Board Chairs Emeriti Maria Arena Bell and David G. Johnson, MOCA Board President Fred Sands, former MOCA Trustee and President of the Andy Warhol Foundation Joel Wachs, newly elected Board Co-Chairs Lilly Tartikoff Karatz and Maurice Marciano, MOCA Board Vice President Eugenio Lopez, MOCA Life Trustee Blake Byrne, Interim Director Maria Seferian and artists who formerly served on the MOCA board John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie, and Ed Ruscha, among others.

“Philippe Vergne is a world class museum leader and we are so thrilled to welcome him to Los Angeles. Philippe brings a strong international perspective and curatorial record to MOCA, which is vital to us continuing as one of the most important contemporary art museums today. We are celebrating his decision to join us,” said MOCA Board Co-Chair Lilly Tartikoff Karatz.

Added MOCA Board Co-Chair Maurice Marciano, “I am very excited that Philippe will join MOCA as its Director. I love his passion for contemporary art and he has a great vision for the future. Also, he is loved by all the artists he has worked with. With the successful completion of MOCA’s endowment campaign and Philippe as its Director, we are embarking on a new, great chapter for MOCA as the leading, international museum of contemporary art.”

“I am honored to be joining MOCA. I have admired its collection and programs throughout my career and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this great institution into its next phase and to return to Los Angeles with my family to my wife’s native city. From Michael Heizer to Mike Kelley, MOCA has changed the way I perceive and understand art. I am extremely grateful for the experiences and support that Dia has provided me with, and with pride I will look forward to its great successes,” new MOCA Director Philippe Vergne said.

Commenting on the appointment, Caryl M. Christian Levy; former director of Public Arts Studies, University of Southern California said “Our Los Angeles community of artists is indeed fortunate to welcome Philippe Vergne as MOCA’s directorial leader. His vision and enthusiasm cements the integrity of the artistic shared experience with artistic creators hungry for this high standard.”

“Philippe Vergne’s reputation in the contemporary art world and strong curatorial background make him uniquely positioned to lead MOCA at this time of great excitement behind our mission and our future,” said David G. Johnson, Chair Emeritus of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Board of Directors and Co-Chair of the Director Search Committee. “Philippe’s scholarship, proven record of museum leadership and the mutual respect he has developed among the world’s leading artists will allow him to cultivate our legacy through MOCA’s world-class collection of contemporary art and ongoing innovative, creative programming.”

“With such a renowned group of candidates interested in this role, we needed to look beyond the resume to find a leader who would influence our program while also enmeshing themselves in MOCA’s unique cultural fabric,” said Maria Arena Bell, Chair Emeritus of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Board of Directors and Co-Chair of the Director Search Committee. “In addition to our world-class collection of art, we possess an appetite for cutting-edge programming and Philippe Vergne is the ideal person to continue MOCA’s journey forward.”

MOCA Board President Fred Sands who serves as a member of the Search Committee stated, “We’re thrilled with the quality and quantity of qualified applicants from all over the world who indicated an interest in the position which speaks well of MOCA’s reputation in the arts community. Now that we will have a $100M endowment, MOCA is the place to be in the museum world.”

“Philippe Vergne has the intelligence, vision, and ambition to lead MOCA forward. He has a deep appreciation of MOCA’s rigor, bravery, and unmatched program of contemporary exhibitions. His deep understanding of artists and the art they make brilliantly matches the collection of objects and ideas, the compelling timeline of powerful visuality, that is MOCA,” said Barbara Kruger.

Award winning international public and fine artist Caryl M. Christian Levy; director of CMC Fine Arts adds, “MOCA’s Board and search committee has responded to the artists voice in this appointment. We all look forward to a very exciting and invigorated activation of new MOCA presentations.”

“I am personally thrilled as an artist that our next director of MOCA will be Philippe Vergne.” said Catherine Opie.

“After a very spirited search, Philippe Vergne is our highly qualified selection for director of MOCA. We believe him to be the most artist friendly and at the same time the most community friendly choice to steer our ship,” said Ed Ruscha.

Visit the official website of artist Caryl M. Christian Levy at

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