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MOCA Director Jeremy Strick on the fiscal crisis

November 19, 2008 |  5:30 pm

Jeremy Strick, director of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art, sent the following e-letter to museum supporters in the wake of my colleague Mike Boehm's front-page story today on MOCA's fiscal crisis:

November 19, 2008

Dear Friends:

In view of the article about MOCA published today in the Los Angeles Times, I want to take this opportunity to reiterate the singular commitment of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), to serve the Southern California community and maintain its preeminent position as the foremost contemporary art museum in the nation.

MOCA has achieved unparalleled success since its inspired founding in 1979, and the museum continues to fulfill its mission “to be the defining museum of contemporary art.” For three decades, loyal and dedicated donors like you have made it possible for MOCA to realize an acclaimed program of ambitious exhibitions, and our renowned permanent collection of nearly 6,000 works is among the finest in the country. Today, the museum is proud to present Louise Bourgeois, Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective and Index: Conceptualism in California from the Permanent Collection, and MOCA continues to tour our groundbreaking monographic and thematic exhibitions, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution and © MURAKAMI, to prestigious institutions worldwide.

All of us at MOCA recognize the substantial influence you have had at the museum. In this season of economic uncertainty, MOCA acknowledges the considerable challenges that have faced the non-profit sector in recent years, remembering that the wonderful generosity of our closest friends and supporters has sustained the museum during difficult times. Cultural institutions have been affected directly by the volatility of the current economy, and MOCA has not been immune to its impact. While today’s financial realities represent a great test of our longevity, beyond this crossroads is the promise of an even greater future for MOCA.

Your enduring support has upheld the museum’s tradition of excellence in tangible and meaningful ways. We invite you to deepen your personal commitment to MOCA to ensure that this world-renowned institution will remain the definitive leader in the field of contemporary art for generations to come.

With my warmest regards,

Jeremy Strick

-- Christopher Knight

Comments () | Archives (13)

Mr. Strick,

A quick glance at MOCA's most recent 990 statement posted to Guidestar.com indicates that, in a startling and disturbing parallel to the car CEO's asking congress for a handout today, after having flown to DC in their own private jet's, you have led MOCA to spend out of line with its resources, in particular collecting for yourself a salary of half a million dollars, and paying at least five other senior employees salaries in exess of six figures. The 990 also discloses that the Board of MOCA loaned you over $500,000 toward the purchase of a house. I would hope that while asking the public for donations, one of the steps that you and the MOCA board will take is to put these inflated non-profit salaries on hold until the institution is on safe ground.

the trustees need to step up!

Ugh! I was disgusted to learn about MOCA's horrible mismanagement and the largely SELF-inflected financial crisis it now finds itself in. Yes, these are indeed difficult times, but MOCA has been overspending and digging into its reserves for a long time now. This letter does nothing to make me believe that the people in charge of MOCA have what it takes to see it through its current situation, or the ability to sustain it as the "definitive leader in the field of contemporary art for generations to come".

I don't think I have ever read a more content free letter.

None of this would have happened if they had just collected a cut of the sales of those Louis Vuitton bags at the Murakami show. So noble of them to do it all in the name of art. No chance that these noble patrons of the arts oversaw a Vuitton bag or two stuffed with cash exchange hands...

First of all, let's dispense with the overly simplistic arguments put out there by Mat Gleason & others that MOCA just needed to get a cut of the LV bags, of the Kanye concert or whatever. That's silly and misses the point.

But the exorbitant salary of Strick is a slightly different matter. (And thanks to Tim for pulling up the 990!) Some would argue that a $500K salary is merely in-line with peer institutions, and that may be right. (We can argue some other time about how appropriate that is, but it probably is an industry-wide problem, not a MOCA-specific problem.) But seeing not only a $500K salary at a non-profit, but some sketchy self-dealing (a $500K loan) leaves the distinct impression that the leadership here is simply out of touch with the priorities and the mission of the institution. One is reminded of Global Crossing, Adelphia, and Tyco, and the sense of executive, ruling-class entitlement that is totally detached from a commitment to either the institution of MOCA or the things that the institution is supposed to stand for.

Paying yourself a whopping 3% of the overall annual budget of the entire organization is simply nuts, especially at a time of prolonged crisis, as these past 8 years have been. (3% may sound small, but it is HUGE.)

Of course, MOCA is a non-profit, and some of its finances are in the public domain-- so some of the culpability lies with all of us for not catching this sooner. Obviously, the bulk of the blame -- the overwhelming majority that virtually dwarfs the rest -- lies with Strick & the board, but everyone -- top MOCA staff, the LATimes, the rest of the LA arts community, and the general public -- should be ashamed of allowing this to happen.

You'd think that after being called out by Chris Knight, there might be some shame on the part of Strick, et al. But instead, Strick releases a shamefully content-free letter. He seems content to keep cashing his check for as long as it comes, and to let MOCA fail.

I wonder if Rocky Delgadillo can find some grounds for charging this clown for fiddling while MOCA burns, leaving the rest of us Angelenos all the poorer.

MOCA's website perfectly illustrates MOCA's lack of a vision for its future and its inability to plan: just click on the link to Future Exhibitions. There is MOCA's future--one exhibition.

It embodies just what is wrong with MOCA's leadership.

It has only taken a child's comment to expose an Emperor's
nakedness elswhere.
Marcia Weisman is hurling thunderbolts from above.

The only reason anyone but a few spoiled rich folks and their lazy art college off spring went to the murikami show WAS for the over priced handbags. His "art" was a joke, know one of the architects for the show, and just a kiddy land ride to exorbitant merchandise. it was just a backdrop for consumerism. Cartoons have no shelf life. And neither does conetemporary art, it is dead, gone with its patrons in thier self made depression.

Good riddance to bad trash, MoCA

The salaries are fair and in line with similar institutions across the country. They aren't the problem. Strick, and undoubtedly many on the board, seem to lack a committment to the business planning, financial health and management of MOCA as an institution. Yes, MOCA is an arts organization and the art should take priority. But the board and the staff must also commit to (and be capable of handling) the work that goes into maintaining the organization.

finally Jeremy will be revealed for the phony fake that he's always been.

Fire Jeremy Strict, and take away his bonuses and preferential parking rights!

This guy should be fired immediately, and the state government should go in and take away large chunks of money that he took as "salary".


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