The move marks a return to a pedigreed museum professional to lead the institution after the controversial 2010 hire of former New York dealer Jeffrey Deitch. Deitch resigned in September after a tumultuous three-year tenure that saw staff and board departures.
“I am honored to be joining MOCA,” said Vergne in a press release. “I have admired its collection and programs throughout my career and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this great institution into its next phase and to return to Los Angeles with my family to my wife’s native city.”
Vergne has served for the last five years as director of New York’s Dia Art Foundation. Previously he was deputy director and chief curator at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minn., director of the François Pinault Foundation, Paris, and director of the Musée d’art Contemporain, Marseille, France.
This news comes a week after the museum announced that it had increased its previously lagging endowment to $100 million and was aiming to raise it yet further, to $150 million. The museum’s endowment had dipped to about $5 million at the end of 2008, and the museum entered discussions with other institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, about possible mergers or collaborations on programming.
Vergne’s curatorial credits include exhibitions at major institutions worldwide, including shows of Carl Andre, Yves Klein, Thomas Hirschhorn, Huang Yong Ping and Kara Walker. In 2006, Vergne co-curated the Whitney Biennial with Chrissie Iles.
Founded in 1979, the museum is the only L.A. institution devoted to contemporary art, and has holdings of more than 6,800 objects.