• Online Reputation Management for the Art World: Jeffrey Deitch’s Departure from LA MoCA

    Jeffrey Deitch, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Source Flickr: Transformative Art: Theaster Gates, Jeffrey Deitch. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

    Jeffrey Deitch, as the controversial art world impresario and apparently outgoing Los Angeles Contemporary Museum Director, are both left with online reputation management problems in his wake.

    Regardless of ones feeling about Jeffrey Deitch, departures (firing?) of high level leaders—be it curators, dealers, or business executives—puts a strain on the institution and everyone else involved because of the press and online “chatter” surrounding the event.

    News Coverage

    Along with the huge amount of press that quickly developed over this story, from the Huffington Post, to the Wall Street Journal, to the Los Angeles Times, online blogs and social media sites exploded.  Searching for either “Jeffrey Deitch,” or “LA MoCA,” produces numerous negative links on the first page of the search results.

    Lingering Damage

    This can all be very damaging, and can linger for months or even longer.  While the headlines of the traditional press my fade, the online world can still churn comments, posts and reviews.  An additional problem with Deitch’s departure is that it’s another (and another, etc.) opportunity for the spotlight to shine on the Museum and his troubled tenure.  And it’s another opportunity for additional scrutiny and an airing of “dirty laundry.”

    Leak Turned to a Flood

    One problem is that this transition was handled poorly.  Sometimes it’s impossible to control news about a major curator or museum director leaving, but not in this case, apparently.  The way the information flooded out seems to have made things worse, and allowed for many more comments, speculations, and naturally, negative online posts.

    Online Reputation Management for the Art World

    LA MoCA and Jeffrey Deitch will be linked together for a long time.  Their online reputations could be negatively impacted for many months or even years.  This is especially challenging as both try to go their separate ways as soon as possible.  LA MoCA needs to carefully keep focused on the positive (if there is any—the institution is rumored to go under altogether; it already had a $30 million bailout from Eli Broad), and “right the ship,” as soon as it can.

    Jeffrey Deitch seems to be going is own way, and may be in less trouble than the institution.  After all, he returns to the artworld, while LA MoCA can be blamed for hiring him in the first place.

    Regardless of what happens, this has a big impact on many of the current and old players involved.  The articles dredge up old events such as the departure or ouster of well liked longtime curator Paul Schimmel (who joined the internationally gallery powerhouse Hauser & Wirth), as well as previous board members such as the artists who left under the recent tenure.

    The Bottom Line

    Public relations, traditional spin tactics and control of the press might not have much weight these days when news like this breaks.  The online world of social media can greatly impact large institutions such as the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art as well as Jeffrey Deitch, impacting their online reputations for months or years down the road.

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