Thursday, January 16, 2014

Philippe Vergnhe of the Dia Foundation New Director of MOCA

Below is the full release from MOCA. 

Full comments later but my first impression is the MOCA's board main criteria appears to have been curatorial talent rather than a proven record of fund raising.  And that is very good news.  It demonstrates the new Board understands it is their responsibility to raise the money and the Director's job to supply the curatorial vision.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tel 213 633 5390
Tel 213 621 1788


Los Angeles, Calif., - Following a worldwide search led by a 14-member committee, The Board of Trustees of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) announced today that it has voted unanimously to appoint Philippe Vergne as the museum’s director. Vergne succeeds Jeffrey Deitch, who resigned from MOCA on September 1, 2013.
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 6800 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.

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, 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 Musée d’art Contemporain (MAC) in Marseille, France.

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 Vergne has organized and curated monographic, group and thematic exhibitions at major institutions around the world including, among others for Carl André, Yves Klein, Thomas Hirschhorn, Huang Yong Ping and Kara Walker and in 2006, Vergne co-curated the Whitney Biennial with Chrissie Iles. 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, 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 Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies (first doctoral diploma) (1992).

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," said MOCA Director Philippe Vergne.

“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.”

“I am 100% excited that Philippe Vergne will be the new director of MOCA.  MOCA is very fortunate.  I think it’s a perfect marriage,” said John Baldessari.

“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.

“I am personally thrilled as an artist that our next director of MOCA will be Philippe Vergne. I first met Philippe while working on the Ice House series for a Walker residency and was taken by his ability for working with artists and his breadth of knowledge in contemporary art. In working with the search committee on finalizing him as our candidate for the next director of MOCA, our discussions continued to lead back to the enthusiasm and the vision for MOCA’s future, that Philippe brought to the table in the interview process. The future of MOCA has not only been financially met by the board during this time, but by the leadership and interest that Philippe will provide, and MOCA will certainly secure a brilliant future as the only independent museum of contemporary art in Los Angeles. In my opinion the museum we call “The Artists’ Museum” here in Los Angeles will thrive with all that has been accomplished in the past six months,” 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.

Search Committee Co-Chair Joel Wachs lauded the participation of the four distinguished artists throughout the search process. “First and foremost,” Wachs said, “MOCA has always been the artists’ museum, and the presence, intellect and keen insight of John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Cathy Opie and Ed Ruscha have made sure it will continue to be so in the future.”

Last week the MOCA Board of Trustees announced the successful completion of its $100,000,000 endowment campaign, quadrupling its endowment and setting a next goal of raising its endowment to $150,000,000 preserving the museum’s heritage and protecting its place among the most important contemporary art museums in the world. The museum continues to have no debt on its balance sheet and is financially stronger than ever.

Interim Director Maria Seferian who was integral to the campaign’s success continues to lead the museum through the transition period prior to Vergne assuming his role as director.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

EXPLORE Historic Downtown Los Angeles as Described in the January GQ MAGAZINE This & Next Saturday!

The Last Bookstore (and a  2nd floor with 50,000 books at ONE DOLLAR each!)  Presents  a 10:30 START TIME FOR 2 hour walking tours  of the The Secret Lives of Historic Downtown Los Angeles -  FEATURED In GQ MAGAZINE and Endorsed By - LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE!

There will be a HISTORIC DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES 101  2 hour walking tour this Saturday January 18th  (and Saturday JANUARY 27th with a start time of 10:30 AM and an ending time of 12:30 PM. 

And on every Sunday, with reservations totaling at least 4 or more people  made by 5 PM Saturday - Sunday Tours can  also be given starting at 11 PM - or later depending -  on the first person's reservations.  And all tours start at THE LAST BOOKSTORE in the Spring Arts Tower at 5th and Spring and they are still only $15 per person.

And  besides our regular scheduled tours, we will be offering customized tours on different days and different times and from one to three hours including weekdays - depending on your schedule.  With a minimum of four reservations, we will design a tour of any part of Downtown focusing on any subject matter you choose.  These tours can be after work, during lunch breaks - or??

FOR MORE INFORMATION  - contact Brady Westwater at 213-804-8396 - or
All tours begin at THE LAST BOOKSTORE at 453 S. Spring Street in the Spring Arts Tower and will be led by long time Downtown resident Brady Westwater who, besides being involved with the Downtown LA Neighborhood Council, the Historic Downtown BID, Gallery Row, Art Walk, and the BOXeight and the CONCEPT Fashion Weeks, has brought over 150 businesses, artists and non-profit institutions to Downtown.  All tours are only $15 per person.  
Wyatt Earp

If you are a participant in 'Historic Downtown Los Angeles 101' Tour, you will see the first motion picture theater built,  the place where Babe Ruth signed his contract with the Yankees, the hotel where Charlie Chaplin lived when he made his early films (and the place where he made his Los Angeles vaudeville debut in 1910) - plus the homes and haunts of everyone from actor Nicholas Cage, the Black Dahlia, Rudolph Valentino, LA’s version of Jack the Ripper, President Teddy Roosevelt, the Night Stalker, western outlaw Emmet Dalton,  actor Ryan Gosling and more.  And you will also visit where O. J. Simpson bought his knife.

You’ll explore an intersection where all four buildings were often visited by gunfighter/sheriff Wyatt Earp since they were all built or occupied by friends of his from Tombstone during the shoot-out at the OK Corral.  At this intersection you will also discover what John Wayne, a prime minister of Italy, Houdini, Winston Churchill, boxer Jack Dempsey, Greta Garbo, President Woodrow Wilson and multiple Mexican boxing champions all had in common here.

You will also see where the first new lofts were opened, the places where Gallery Row and the Art Walk began and where Fashion Week returned to Downtown.  You will see many of the new boutiques, designer showrooms and stores that have recently opened in the area along with getting a sneak preview of what will soon be happening in the area.

Tickets for either tour are only $15 per person - free for children under 8 - and reservations can be made by calling Brady Westwater at 213-804-8396 or emailing  All credit card orders will be processed  at Last Bookstore and cash payments may be made at the start of the tour.   All proceeds will go towards the revitalization and the study of the history of the neighborhood.  
Lastly, future tours will feature specialized areas of interest such as architecture, art of all kinds, shopping and food, single streets, sports (from steer wrestling to luchador wrestlers to a Sumo wrestler), transportation, specific periods of history, the hidden Wild West history of Los Angeles, movie locations, Downtown after hours and many other aspects of the neighborhood. And custom designed can be developed by request  for groups of four or more.
We will also be soon starting weekday and evening tours on what it's like to live in Downtown Los Angeles. You will be introduced to the many of stores, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues (and often their owners, too) - along with being given previews of one of a kind special events - so you can get a feel for what it is like to live in Downtown Los Angeles.

We expect this tour to be popular with not only people considering moving to Downtown and people who work in Downtown and who would like to know what to do after hours in Downtown - but also to recent and even long established Downtown residents who want to know more about their neighborhood.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Great Story on Downtown Los Angeles in GQ Magazine

I was one of the many people Brett Martin interviewed for his GQ article on Downtown LA and of all the many writers I have spoken with, he has gotten the best grasp on what is new - and unique - about the path Downtown LA has taken.

America's Next Great City Is Inside L.A.

For decades, Downtown has been the dark center of L.A.: a wasteland of half-empty office buildings and fully empty streets. But amid the glittering towers and crumbly Art Deco facades, a new generation of adventurous chefs, bartenders, loft dwellers, artists, and developers are creating a neighborhood as electrifying and gritty as New York in the '70s. Brett Martin navigates his way through the coolest new downtown in America

January 2014
Brady Westwater stands on the corner of Spring Street and Fifth Street, Downtown Los Angeles, arms akimbo. He wears a crumpled black cowboy hat pinned up on one side and a hooded sweatshirt of the Elida (Ohio) High School wrestling team. The squad on the sweatshirt changes daily, but this is essentially his uniform.
“This was the Wild West before there was a Wild West,” he says, all but wading into traffic and gesturing to the buildings around him. “In fact, many people went east from here to make the Wild West. This was wilder than any cow town in Texas.” The buildings on all four corners, he says, were built by a confederate of Wyatt Earp, who spent some time as an Angeleno in the early 1900s.
“The whole history of this neighborhood is a series of frontiers!”
With his hat, wiry arms, and scruffy mustache, 65-year-old Westwater bears some resemblance to a gold-panning frontier sidekick himself. He remembers when Fifth Street, “the Nickel,” had the distinction of being one of the busiest drug markets in the world, when the only places to get something to eat were the gas station on Olympic and the twenty-four-hour Original Pantry Cafe on Figueroa, where you can still get home fries with an archaeological mantle of crust. Back then, you could hang around and eventually see all the Downtown pioneers—artists, filmmakers, assorted bohemians—as they climbed out of their lofts and warehouses in search of sustenance.
Westwater, as he tells it, abandoned Downtown for a while, like most everybody else. He lived in Malibu and traveled the world as a mixed-martial-arts fighter. Then, in 1997, he came back, possessed of a vision of a revitalized urban community occupying Downtown. “I pushed flyers under every door I could find that showed a sign of life,” he says of his mission to match empty spaces with sometimes reluctant new tenants. He wasn't alone. Developers—names like Tom Gilmore and Cedd Moses—were set to begin taking advantage of a new law that loosened regulations on how Downtown's vacant buildings could be developed. Now, charging up the street to Broadway, Westwater points to building after building that has come back to teeming life: This one is lofts. This one houses one of the city's best restaurants. This one is a bar with a pop-up restaurant in the back and a performance space on top of that. Every structure seems to house artists, musicians, designers, tech developers, chefs—the whole Who are the people in your neighborhood of the creative class. After decades of being all but forgotten, Downtown has approached a critical mass of cool that even the most hard-core resident of Venice or Santa Monica or West Hollywood or Silver Lake would find impossible to deny.
“And we're still at the tip of the iceberg,” says Moses, whose Downtown bars have done as much as anything to spur on the development. “Right now, Downtown is like Brooklyn, but that's going to change. This is going to be Manhattan. And all the outlying areas, the rest of Los Angeles, that's going to be the boroughs. I don't have a doubt in my mind.”
Westwater, who both leads tours of Downtown and pops up in meetings with developers and politicians, is somehow in the center of this frenzy of activity—something between a fixer, a booster, a town historian, and the local eccentric, part Boss Tweed, part Joe Gould. In other words, the kind of great character produced by great cities. And that, of all things, is what Downtown L.A. is trying to become: a Great City in the heart of the City That Destroyed Cities.

There is much, much more in the article - including some greaT quotes from Cedd Moses.  And, at the end, Martin sums up what he has discovered about Downtown LA.
Downtown is still very much a series of frontiers—shifting, not fully formed, at times dangerous and self-defeating. What's left of Skid Row is still a shocking tent city reminiscent of The Wire's “Hamsterdam.” The homeless and mentally ill population that fan out from it daily are a major part of street life and a problem that won't be solved by being pushed into a smaller area or different part of the city. New entrepreneurs complain that all the hype has spurred landlords to get ahead of themselves, jacking up rents and scuttling some development before it even gets started.
None of this, says Moses, changes the inevitability of Downtown L.A., its inexorable rise.
"The fact is," he says, leaning forward and making eye contact for the first time, "Downtown is the only solution to the problem of L.A."
And that, truth be told, is when the last of my skepticism begins to dissipate, the moment I finally grasp the vision so many people have so excitedly tried to communicate: that Downtown isn't a bet on hipsterism, not on dumplings or cocktails or cool shops or food trucks. It's a bet on urbanism itself, a conviction that the past fifty years of outward, sprawling cul-de-sac development was just that: a dead end. That this is how we want to live, amidst the spark and jangle of humans pressed up against humans. Even in L.A.
There was a time, Brady Westwater says, when the ten square blocks around Spring and Fifth housed everybody you needed to know—the pioneers of moviemaking, aerospace, agriculture, the oil business, all the industries that built modern Southern California. What was past is now future, he says. “Picture a place where you can walk from MoMA to the Main Library to SoHo to Madison Square Garden to the best restaurants and bars in the world. Every single urban amenity, within walking distance. Where you walk outside and can't help but run into everybody. This is the only city that can offer that. And that's why L.A.—not Dubai or Singapore or anyplace else—that's why L.A. is going to change the world!”

Friday, January 03, 2014

University Researchers Miss the Mark on 'Myth' of Valley Girl Speak in the Valley

'Clueless' courtesy of Paramount Pictures via New York Times blog post

By confusing the Valley Girl Speak phenomenon in Encino (and adjacent parts of the San Fernando Valley) with the larger phenomenon of 'uptalk', researchers from the University of San Diego - none of whom, I assume, were there when it happened  - have misunderstood what made Valley Girl Speak unique - or why it was quickly picked up by the film and TV industries.  Here is the New York Times post on the subject:
Are you still making fun of young women for talking like Valley Girls?
Do you assume that because their statements end in a hesitant, rising quaver (“My name is Brittany?”) they are shallow, scattered or uncertain? Even that they sound — how to say this politely? is there any way? — intellectually your inferior?
For years, sociologists and linguists have studied that lilt, referring to it as “uptalk” or “high-rising intonation.” They found its presence in large pockets throughout the English-speaking world — Australia? England? New Zealand? Some date it to the 1950s, others say it is centuries old.Seriously?
In America, it became popularized during the 1980s as Valley Girl Speak, presumably inspired by Frank Zappa’s hit 1982 song “Valley Girl,” a derisive reference to the young white women of California’s San Fernando Valley who spoke it as their own dialect. Films like “Heathers” and “Clueless” perpetuated and parodied the stereotype of the speech and its purported lifestyle.
But scholars have found that the rising inflection can suggest a range of nuanced meanings in different geographical areas and conversational contexts. Another myth busted: its use is not exclusive to young women.

Here is the response I made on Kate Coe's facebook post on the subject.
These researchers totally missed the real 'cause' of Valley Girl Speak. Uptalk may have been part of it, but when I first noticed it, it was clearly a combination of surfer lingo with the nasal accents of Long Island (and other Bridge and Tunnel accents of transplanted New Yorkers), particularly in the South of the Boulevard San Fernando Valley communities of Encino and Sherman Oaks, both of which had large Jewish communities of ex-New Yorkers who also happened to be in the entertainment industry. And that explains why the film and TV industries picked up on the trend so fast.