Paul Schimmel Fired from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

06/28/2012 1:36 PM |

Paul Schimmel in 2009
  • Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times
  • Paul Schimmel in 2009

The rumor mill has been churning full-force since ‘round midnight, and it’s all about the firing of Chief Curator Paul Schimmel from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MoCA). MoCA’s press department has been unable to confirm his departure, but according to the Los Angeles Times, “The firing was made by the museum’s board of trustees [last night] and is effective immediately.”

Schimmel’s sudden departure was first reported by art journalist Mat Gleason. On his personal blog, he wrote: “Paul Schimmel was fired at MOCA – it was the end of the fiscal year and they tightened the belt.” If MOCA is ridding itself of a high-level staff member due to financial duress, then the museum is in a sad state of affairs, just like one of the city’s other major museums, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

So far, other sources exhume less dismal financial reasons for Schimmel’s departure, and concentrate on a far more likely situation of internal strife, based on Schimmel butting heads with Director Jeffrey Deitch.

Schimmel has been with MOCA since the 1990s. He is known for curating historical shows like Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, and, according to art writer M.A. Greenstein, he has a “need to sniff out an origins thesis.” And that way of thinking appears out of step with a museum that, since Jeffrey Deitch’s arrival in 2010, is focused on the new and now. Over the past two years, the museum has seen exhibitions and events by artists like Marina Abramovic and James Franco. Museums need nerds to put on smart exhibitions, but try telling that to someone who’s interested in putting on shows by cool celebrities.

The cut will not be so clean, and Schimmel still has at least one major upcoming exhibition: In November 2012, Painting the Void: 1949-1962 will open October 7th at MOCA LA, before traveling to the Musem of Contemporary Art Chicago in early 2013. Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times tweeted that Schimmel’s involvement will continue, but on a contract basis.