Paul Schimmel was fired at MOCA - it was the end of the fiscal year and they tightened the belt. It is easier to have a corporate sponsor pay a guest celebrity curator - the curating has been outsourced.
The design department is outsourced to Sheppard Fairey’s design company, the education department gets grants and therefore competes with the Board for power so people there are being hacked away left and right, but the cutting off of Schimmel is a bold move by the Jeffrey Deitch/Eli Broad consortium to advance the outsourced party time event based museum that will not function as a repository of great art but of great parties.
If Moca is downsized into a celebrity-curated kunsthalle style circus, it will give the blue chip Broad across the street more Gravitas. And then of course when MOCA is broke yet again - who will save MOCA by purchasing the best paintings in the collection because the museum is more concerned with event programming? The Broad Museum across the street of course.
Schimmel changed the course of institutional focus with his exhibit HELTER SKELTER which favored the energy of figurative art addressing American abjection. With that one exhibit he rejected the party line of a formalist art history and the floodgates of curatorial freedom opened on the institutional level. For that alone he will have an impact that goes beyond his years.
But he curated some turkeys, too. Richard Serra told me that Schimmel's 1998 Out of Action exhibit would have made a better enyclopedia than an exhibition. Schimmel's cotton candy Takahashi Murakami exhibition was downright suspicious with the close involvement of the artist's American dealers and a high-end commercial boutique in the middle of the museum allegedly functioning as an art piece and yet taking in thousands of dollars a day. The show closed and suddenly MOCA was broke. Schimmel survived the Jeremy Strick departure as he had the plausible deniability of picking the art and not courting the donors. The problem soom became that his "really big shows" did not pack the superficial glitzy wallop of Jeffrey "Showtime" Deitch. Once untouchable he had avoided the intrigue of palace politics too long. They came for him, he was a lone wolf in the court of Pope Eli with no allies except the art world, ever distant from the internal workings of the easy celebrity worship ruling the MOCA board these days.
I wrote about Schimmel for the LA Downtown News and got into trouble for mentioning how fat he was in an article called "Curator Rates the Eats". His wife thaked me a few years later sayin she could never get him to the gym until that came out. MOCA pulled my press credential and I was barred from the Ellsworth Kelly retrospective press preview. That week a trustee who was going to be out of town gave me his invite to the big party. Paul almost crapped his tuxedo when they let me in... Actually MOCA events were always easy to crash with the whispered missive "I've got a delivery of an ounce of pot for Paul Schimmel, I can't just hand it to you and he has GOT to get it for the afterparty." Worked like a charm for many MOCA soirees. After today, though, would-be party crashers will be reduced to sucking-off Sheppard Fairey's douchebag posse for a pass into MOCA's big events - which now kind of blur a Hollywood version of what casting agents might think an art party at a bottle-service Vegas Strip nightclub should look like.
My bet is Schimmel lands on his feet running the Mike Kelley Foundation. What is that? You'll see.