By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
|Photo by Larry Hirshowitz|
L.A. Weekly: What led to your decision to leave MOCA?
Richard Koshalek: I have the instincts of a builder, and I'm not excited by the details of maintenance -- my interest is in creating things from scratch. I felt I'd done what I set out to do at MOCA and that it was time to slip away quietly -- in fact, I actually had it in mind to change my name and just disappear. The idea of building a school intrigued me, however, and I thought that getting involved with the educational process of artists would be a nice way to continue what we did at MOCA.
Do you feel emotional about leaving? Is there anything you anticipate missing?
I wasn't emotional about it when I made the decision to leave five years ago, and I'm not emotional now. I feel it's the right thing to do, and I like that I made my own decision. I'll miss working on shows with artists, and I'll miss several members of the board who've become dear friends. I've loved all the travel involved with my work at MOCA, but that's something I don't intend to give up.
I'm sure you've had other offers since you announced your resignation; did you consider any of them?
No. There was speculation I'd take the directorship of the Menil Collection, but I never considered it, because I've done the museum thing. There was conversation with Sotheby's and Christie's, and an agent from the entertainment industry expressed interest in working with me. I'm a sports nut and I considered going into sports, but I don't have the experience. I took a sabbatical in 1993 and went on the road with the Forty-Niners for three months, and I realized then it's a complicated world, and that you can't just walk in the door and be part of it. ã
How has MOCA changed during your tenure as director?
It's become stable. Early on there were a few times when MOCA almost imploded. I'm thinking in particular of 1982, when Pontus Hulten left. The board was struggling to develop a working methodology, leadership was trying to emerge, the architecture was in trouble -- there was lots of upheaval, but it all sorted itself out with time. When I became director, I made a list of 25 museums internationally that we wanted to do business with, and we've worked with every single one of them. MOCA's now recognized as a major forum for dealing with issues of contemporary art -- in other words, the museum has grown up.
You were trained as an architect and have said that if you can find the time, you plan to enter some architectural competitions in the next few years. You've also collaborated with curator Elizabeth Smith on a massive survey of 20th-century architecture titled "At the End of the Century" that debuted last year in Tokyo, opens this month in Cologne, then travels to Chicago, L.A. and South America. You obviously know a bit about architecture; what do you now think of MOCA's buildings?
I like the Geffen Contemporary a lot, but if I had the Grand Street facility to do over again, I'd do a different building. But this is no reflection on [Arata] Isozaki, who is a brilliant architect.
Over the course of your tenure at MOCA, government funding of the arts decreased dramatically; fund-raising has presumably become an ever more pressing part of being a museum director.
Yes. MOCA needs a yearly budget of between $10 and $15 million. Our endowment gives us $2 million, so every year we have to come up with the balance of the budget. The board is helpful with raising money, but the responsibility for funding essentially falls on the staff. People are always telling me, 'Richard, you lead such a glamorous life, you go to dinner parties constantly,' but it's exhausting. The social demands of a job like MOCA are just unbelievable, and you can assume that anyone whose name appears as a donor to MOCA is someone I've had meals with and gotten to know. Jeremy Strick strikes me as a scholarly, contemplative man, but he's gonna have to hustle, because it's part of the job.
Is it possible to be a museum director without making enemies?
No. That doesn't make me the least bit uncomfortable, however, because I accept that it's just part of the deal.
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