Second update, Thursday: It's official.
Update: The New York Times's Randy Kennedy and Patricia Cohen have also confirmed that Deitch has told the trustees that he plans on leaving. According to an anonymous trustee, the museum's board has a meeting on Wednesday and will likely form a search committee. Deitch, according to Kennedy and Cohen, "did not return phone messages left over the last two days."
Original post: In what could be a big shakeup for the art world, LA Weekly's Dennis Romero reported late last night that gallerist-turned-Museum of Contemporary Art director Jeffrey Deitch is leaving the museum, according to a "source."
Romero reports that, according to "insiders," the downtown Los Angeles-based museum is going to make an announcement tomorrow, and that Deitch will leave by the end of the month. Tom Christie, at the Tumblr B.L.A.T.C., adds that Deitch "has reportedly been on a search himself in recent weeks – for both an apartment and a gallery space on New York’s Upper East Side." That pretty clearly implies he is likely to return to New York, where he was a star in the gallery world. (Update: Christie noted in an email to the Wire that B.L.A.T.C.'s post actually broke the news before Romero's.)
Deitch's tenure at the financially unstable modern art museum raised eyebrows from the get-go. When he was appointed in 2010 Rebecca Cathcart of The New York Times wrote that "many in the art world have expressed concern about the potential conflicts of interest involved in a commercial gallery owner taking over an institutional guardian of the public trust like a museum." Just last summer, he faced a series of resignations from the museum's board, following the departure (firing?) of chief curator Paul Schimmel.
Deitch was known for his flashy, celebrity-courting exhibits. He even collaborated with James Franco on Franco's bizarre soap opera/performance art stint. His most popular show was "Art in the Streets," a celebration of graffiti culture that set attendance records, even as some wondered if it was tacitly celebrating vandalism.
But MOCA's troubles extend beyond whatever problems Deitch's tenure has caused. The museum has frequently been on the verge of not being able to survive. For example, in 2008, billionaire Eli Broad gave the museum $30 million in bailout money. This past March, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art made a "formal proposal" to merge with MOCA, though that was ultimately rejected. As Blouin ARTINFO points out, though, the museum recently hit the fundraising gambit hard in an attempt to create a $100 million endowment.
Romero points out that it's unclear whether Deitch was pushed out or just tired of taking the fall for the institution. We'll wait for official word.