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Philippe Vergne. Photo: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times.

LA MoCA Director Philippe Vergne Resigns

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles announced today that director Philippe Vergne is stepping down. According to the Los Angeles Times, the institution’s board of trustees will not renew his contract, which expires in March 2019. The museum said that the decision was mutual.

Vergne’s departure comes on the heels of the controversial firing of chief curator Helen Molesworth. While LA MoCA has been tight-lipped about the situation, board member Catherine Opie said that the reason for her termination was because she was “undermining the museum.” The news shocked the art world. Exhibitions dedicated to Kerry James Marshall and the Brazilian artist Anna Maria Maiolino, as well as other programming overseen by Molesworth, had received critical acclaim. Vergne never publicly addressed the firing.

The museum had also faced criticism at the beginning of the year as a result of the abrupt cancellation of its annual gala. LA MoCA intended to honor artist Mark Grotjahn, but he backed out of the event in February, citing the lack of diversity among the artists recognized in the past.

Vergne joined the museum in 2014, filling the position left vacant by Jeffrey Deitch, who absconded two years into his five-year contract. Prior to joining LA MoCA, Vergne served as director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York and as chief curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

“As I look back over the last four years, I am proud that we achieved the range of artistic and education programs that were central to the mission I set in motion when I first became director thus contributing to the museum’s financial stability and its expanded audience,” Vergne said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the board and the museum to assure a smooth and orderly transition at this important moment for MoCA.”

A search committee comprising half a dozen board members has already been established. A spokesperson for the museum stressed that multiple artists will be on the committee. John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Grotjahn, Barbara Kruger, and Opie are among the artists who serve on LA MoCA’s board.

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