Hot Celebrities Do Wonders For LA Art Museums

J-Deitch, poolside (image from latimes.com)

Did you know that Jeffrey Deitch is a celebrity? I bet you did. Did you know he lives in a “movie star mansion” in the “trendy L.A. neighborhood of Los Feliz”? I bet you didn’t, and I bet you didn’t care either. “Celebrity has become, for better or worse, an art form,” Deitch says. Well, the LA MoCA director must be a pretty great artist, or the LA Times wouldn’t be publishing his very own episode of Cribs.

The truth is that having such a great image booster, the shiny visage of a Deitch at the helm, does a lot for a museum. Museums aren’t the easiest thing to get on the radar of a mainstream media addicted to reality TV and celebrity marriages. Compared to that, who cares about a measly acquisition or a change of head curators? Lately, museums have been making it into the news for their galas, fund-raising events who attract hot young stars, and starlets that just up the sex factor of your local modern art institution.

The LA Times looks at Hollywood’s march to join the art world, noting celebrities who have become trustees and fund-raisers for art museums. “LACMA grossed nearly $5 million with an event that drew Kardashian, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Teri Hatcher and Christina Aguilera, who also performed,” Jori Finkel writes. Musicians Beck and Devendra Banhart played at an LA MoCA gala. There’s a great shiny facade of image projected by people who now find it “stylish” to be a museum trustee. But, Finkel asks, “how deep does Hollywood’s support for local museums really go?”

What emerges is a debate between the value of celebrity support and its undermining of a museum’s cred. “In the end, there’s a real question,” Dean Valentine, a collector on the board of the Hammer Museum asks, “Do we care about art? Or do we treat a museum like just another bar or nightclub?”

The intersection of celebrity and trustee culture and the relationship between museums and pop culture are definitely topics that we need to explore further and perhaps rethink when it comes to Hollywood image boosters.

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