My Dear Devourers of the Scene,
This is why you check-in with the Blaise Bulletin. While you were stuck at the office/at the Shafrazi opening/begging for a table at Schillers/preparing the TiVo for Real Housewives of New York, Blaise & Co. was privy to a rather revealing conversation held between the iconic Jeffrey Deitch and Print Magazine editor Carlo McCormick.
On the eve of his departing New York to assume his new role running MoCA in Los Angeles, Jeffrey pulled up a stool in Tribeca’s grass-roots arts organization and exhibition space Apexart and let it all out: the origins of his ideals, how he found his downtown tribe (shout out to Kelly Cutrone), the merits of setting out to study Art Criticism at Harvard Business School, and why he’ll never move to Chelsea. Here are just a few of the delightful tidbits Jeffy threw my way…
Jeffrey is a “creature of New York in the ’70s, and what a privileged it was!” Back then, all you had to do was sit yourself down on one of the loading docks on West Broadway, and in two hours you’d know 200 people in the art world. This was before the days when one had to be “a billionaire, a world famous artist, or abnormally attractive to be invited to a Gagosian gallery dinner.” This “open access environment” was gritty and odd and experimental – before the Go-Go ’80s, the Busted ’90s, and the Branded ’00s.
Jeffrey is a disciple of the Tradition of Performance. In fact, when he was about 20 years old he staged a performance of his own called “Arguments” in which he and a few others would instigate heated conversations with strangers on the street. Picture this in Below Canal Street in the ’70s… Genius. Deitch has always been fascinated with what he calls the “structure of crowds,” which Blaise & Co. finds to be perfectly reflected in his new post as Director of MoCA. What better place to observe the dynamics of the masses than at a dynamic contemporary art museum nestled in the hub of the West Coast?
Deitch considers himself indebted to the world of art because, as he put it, it is the only creative community where if one proposes a serious idea with sincerity and conviction, you will be taken seriously, no matter how outlandish the idea. The art world is in a perpetual state of revolution, but the uprising does not always come from where you think it will…
Jeffrey used to take a nightly stroll around the perimeter of SoHo, which always took him by what would years later become the Deitch Projects space on Grand Street. When everyone moved to Chelsea a few years ago, yes, his attendance did go down significantly; 50 visitors quickly turned to sometimes none, and museum curators couldn’t find the time to venture out of their now rote route between 10th and 11th Avenues. Deitch, however, stuck to his guns and listened to his gut. Chelsea is all about sameness, and Deitch does not do sameness. He also does not do “schlock,” which has innundated what had been a genuinely cool Chelsea and turned it into a wasteland of mediocre second and third-floor galleries. You can’t overhear a crazy street conversation from two stories up, and that is what it’s all about for Deitch. (He was, after all, the first to have a garage-style exhibition space with a fully open front wall and concrete flooring, instead of the usual loft.) This guy listens to his gut, but doesn’t shove it in your face.
What is his biggest no-no as Director of MoCA? Creating exhibitions that pander to the audience over reveling in the art – The Blockbuster. New Yorkers are sophisticated art critics who demand a serious effort from their artists. It’s our full-time job even when it’s not, and that’s what makes us the scary, awesome, driven art lovers that we are. Los Angeles, on the other hand, does not quite have the core audience that it’s East Coast competitor bodes. It does, however, have many sub-cultures of people who work in creative industries – fashion, design, entertainment – and have a peripheral interest in Contemporary art. Deitch is setting out to tap into this rather un-loved community of cross-over artsy folk. We New Yorkers can support this! Especially because Deitch himself told me that we’re allowed to complain in our all-too vocal way if he gets trapped in the Blockbuster trap.
And that, my friends, is how you do it. Deitch-style.
PS: Does he not look like Bono in this photo?