MOCA Finally Has a New Director

His name is Philippe Vergne and he comes from the same New York arts organization as LACMA’s Michael Govan.

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MOCA finally has a new director and, once again, he’s a New Yorker—although this time he’s also a Frenchman. Six months after Jeffrey Deitch left and a week after MOCA announced it had upped its endowment to more than $100 million, the downtown institution revealed that Philippe Vergne will be its new museum director.

Interestingly, Vergne leaves the same New York arts org that current LACMA CEO and director Michael Govan left when he accepted his current post, which means that two of L.A.’s most prominent museums will be headed by alumni of the Dia Art Foundation.

What should you know about Philippe Vergne? Here are your bullet points:

  • He’s 47.
  • He was born in Troyes, France.
  • He previously served as director of the Dia Art Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit.
  • Dia is known for its collection of land art, which includes Walter De Maria’s “The Lightning Field” in New Mexico and Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” in Utah.
  • Dia’s main facility, Dia: Beacon, is located in New York’s Hudson Valley. It opened in 2003 and its creation was spearheaded by Michael Govan.
  • Vergne has a two-decade career as a museum professional.
  • Before Dia, Vergne served as deputy director and chief curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, director of the Francois Pinault Foundation in Paris, and director of Le Musée d’art Contemporain (MAC) in Marseille, France.
  • He was one of the curators of the Whitney Biennial in 2006.
  • Last year, Vergne deaccessioned (translation: sold) several pieces from Dia’s collection including works by Cy Twombly and Barnett Newman. The sale raised $38.4 million but was criticized by some in the art world.
  • MOCA has not announced details about when Vergne will assume his new job.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Vergne said:

“My vision is to commit to the most experimental artists of our time, but also to contextualize their work within a broader context. And I think MOCA’s collection is one of the best to contextualize that kind of experimentation, to bring to the public the most important and groundbreaking artists who are working today, and using the collection to give them context.”

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