It’s a measure of the suspicion toward the art market that is held by so many in the art world that Jeffrey Deitch’s announcement that he plans to sell some of his gallery holdings to meet financial commitments from his business as a dealer is being treated as an admission that he plans to continue art dealing after taking his post as LA’s MoCA.
The LA Times’s Mike Boehm ran a story late last week that included Deitch’s explanation of why and how he would sell works.
Now, Deitch says he expects that when he starts at MOCA he will still have “a few hundred works” on his hands that currently belong to Deitch Projects and that he expects to fold them into his personal collection. He said he planned to go on selling some of those — under protocols previously worked out with MOCA’s board that apply when he sells pieces from his personal art holdings.
Deitch said he needed the money to cover the cost of shutting down his business, including breaking leases and keeping financial promises he made to gallery employees who would be out of a job. He said he planned to sell only relatively minor works, and that it was OK, under standard museum-world ethical guidelines, for a museum director to own a collection and, with certain restrictions such as giving MOCA right of first refusal, to sell items from it.
The story also showed that art is Deitch’s primary asset. When public officials are confronted with these conflicts, the issue is resolved by the establishment of a blind trust. In Deitch’s case that could be done. Someone could be charged with maintaining his holdings and if/when Deitch needed to raise money, the decision on what to sell and when could be made by the head of the blind trust. Surprisingly, no one has made that suggestion. Instead, they ask why Deitch doesn’t donate the works to a museum:
The quick-and-easy solution to any actual or suspected dilemmas posed by Deitch’s impending switch from art seller to art steward would be to pledge his collection to a museum. “I’m 57 years old and the collection is my major asset, and I’m not in a position to do that now,” he said. “If things go well and I stay healthy, that is my goal.”