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MOCA shouldn't be fundraising at a gallery

March 16, 2010 |  1:19 pm

Blum Poe 2 Ken Hively Los Angeles Times Here's a bad idea: On March 25, the Museum of Contemporary Art will hold a fundraising event at Blum & Poe, an important art gallery in Culver City. The commercial entanglement makes one blanch, especially given the controversial appointment in January of New York art dealer Jeffrey Deitch as MOCA's new director.

Appearances matter. In this case, there is no way to determine whether the relationship between the gallery and the museum is philanthropic or business-driven. That's not the gallery's problem, but it is the museum's. MOCA is stumbling into troublesome territory.

Blum & Poe spawned the burgeoning Culver City gallery scene when it relocated from Santa Monica more than six years ago. Seventeen of the 25 artists represented by the gallery have works in MOCA's permanent collection, including five in the current 30th-anniversary show, while in the past decade at least four have also had solo retrospectives or smaller "focus" shows at the museum.

The MOCA Contemporaries, a museum support group, has organized a new-members event with Blum & Poe donating its lavish, 21,000-square-foot complex for the occasion. New members joining the museum affiliate will be entered into a raffle to win items donated by eight Los Angeles fashion, jewelry and accessories designers. The annual cost of MOCA Contemporaries membership is a minimum $310.

MOCA has been without a director for 15 months. (Deitch, the first prominent gallery owner to move directly into the director's office at a major American art museum, takes the reins in June.) The absence of leadership shows: Fundraising at a gallery is a mistake.

--Christopher Knight

Photo: Blum & Poe Gallery; credit: Los Angeles Times