Jeffrey Deitch (born 1950) is an American art dealer and curator who served, between 2010 and 2013, as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). On July 24, 2013 he told the MOCA board of his decision to resign.
Early life and education
Deitch (pronounced DIE-tch) was born in 1952 and grew up in Connecticut, where his father ran a heating-oil and coal company and his mother was an economist. He attended public high school in West Hartford, Connecticut, from 1967 to 1970. He was an exchange student in Paris in 1968, and in Japan in 1969. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1974 and received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1978.
Deitch opened his first gallery as a college student in 1972 at the Curtis Hotel, a rented hotel parlor in Lenox, Massachusetts, and sold out the first week. Later he worked as a receptionist at John Weber Gallery in SoHo. From 1979 to 1988, Deitch helped develop and co-manage the art advisory and art finance department at Citibank. In 1980, he became a regular columnist of Flash Art and the first U.S. editor of Flash Art International.
From 1988 to 1996, Deitch was a highly successful private dealer and art adviser to a number of collectors, including Jose Mugrabi. In 1989, he bid $10.5 million and paid $11.55 million for Jackson Pollock's silvery No. 8, 1950, then a record at auction for a work by the artist and the second-highest price at auction for a work by any contemporary artist.
In 1996, Deitch opened the Deitch Projects gallery in the Soho section of New York City. His first shows included Vanessa Beecroft, Jocelyn Taylor, Nari Ward, and Mariko Mori. Soon after, he bought the building housing Canal Lumber, a bigger space around the corner on Wooster Street. The first major exhibition project there was of a Barbara Kruger video-and-slide-projection show in the fall of 1997.
An early advocate of graffiti art in the 1980s, he introduced New York to street art, which originated in San Francisco in the 1990s among artists on the fringe of the skateboard scene. Deitch became well known as a supporter of young artists like Kehinde Wiley and Cecily Brown, while also representing the work of more established artists like Keith Haring and Jeff Koons (Deitch threw Koons’ 50th birthday party). In 2006, he bought Bridget Riley's Untitled (Diagonal Curve) (1966), at Sotheby's for $2.1 million, nearly three times its $730,000 high estimate and also a record for the artist. In 2009, he wrote the strategic plan for the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.
Deitch Projects was closed in 2010 after Deitch's appointment to MOCA. Deitch also resigned from the authentication committee of the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat; he was a close friend of the artist.
Deitch's tenure at MOCA has been controversial. In 2012, Deitch fired MOCA's longtime chief curator Paul Schimmel, leading to the resignation of four MOCA boardmembers - artists John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger, and Catherine Opie, in protest. In 2013, MOCA's ailing financial situation led to a takeover offer by the much larger LACMA.
- Mike Boehm (2003-07-23). "Jeffrey Deitch resigns as head of L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
- Mike Boehm (January 12, 2010), L.A.'s MOCA picks art dealer Jeffrey Deitch as director Los Angeles Times.
- Carl Swanson (January 13, 2014), Jeffrey Deitch Curates Jeffrey Deitch: The Return of the Art World’s Most Essential Zelig New York Magazine.
- JEFFREY DEITCH with David Carrier and Joachim Pissarro The Brooklyn Rail, October 3, 2013.
- Randy Kennedy (June 30, 2010), Museum Role Fits a Former Art Dealer New York Times.
- Cathleen McGuigan (February 10, 1985), New Art, New Money New York Times.
- Calvin Tomkins (November 12, 2007), Onward and Upward with the Arts The New Yorker, p. 65.
- Rita Reif (May 3, 1989), Pollock Price Among Records at Sotheby's New York Times.
- Roberta Smith (May 26, 1996), The Gallery Doors Open to the Long Denied New York Times.
- Roberta Smith (January 11, 2010), A New Boss, and a Jolt of Real-World Expertise New York Times.
- Alexandra Peers (January 20, 2010), How Jeffrey Deitch’s MOCA Appointment Changes the Art World New York Magazine.
- Carol Vogel (June 26, 2006), Prosperity Sets the Tone at London Auctions New York Times.
- Carol Vogel and Randy Kennedy (January 11, 2010), Los Angeles Museum Taps Dealer as Director New York Times.
- Guy Trebay (April 22, 2011), A Risk-Taker’s Debut New York Times.