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MOCA Los Angeles’s New Board Chair Is Maria Seferian, 10-Year Veteran at the Museum


With MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach set to take up the helm of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles later this month, speculation has been swirling about how MOCA’s board of trustees may change. Today brought the first bits of news on that front, with Maria Seferian, its president since 2015, being elected chairman, and Carolyn Powers, a trustee since 2009, being tapped as president.

Seferian—who takes the place of Maurice Marciano and Lilly Tartikoff Karatz (they had served as co-chairs)—was part of the search committee that hired Biesenbach away from New York, and she served as interim director of the museum from the fall of 2013 into the spring 2014, when the hunt was on for Biesenbach’s predecessor, Philippe Vergne. During that time, she was reportedly instrumental in rebuilding the museum’s endowment.

A corporate lawyer, Seferian was also had a tenure as general counsel for the museum, from 2008 to 2013, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times, which was first with the news of the board leadership, provided the intriguing detail that honorees at the museum’s annual gala will now be picked by the director, rather than the board. Earlier this year, the artist Mark Grotjahn turned down the honor on the grounds after first accepting it, objecting to the lack of diversity in the previous honorees.

The artist Lari Pittman resigned from the board in January, telling the Times that his decision to leave was “an individual and personal vote of no confidence in the relationship between the board and the director and the director and the board, between the board and the curatorial team and between the directorship and the curatorial [team].” The gala was subsequently canceled, and in May, following Vergne’s controversial firing of MOCA’s chief curator, Helen Molesworth, it announced that he would depart.

Biesenbach’s first day at the museum will be October 22.

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