The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles said on Tuesday that Johanna Burton will become the institution’s sole director and the first woman in that role, now that Klaus Biesenbach has announced he will leave for Berlin to run the Neue Nationalgalerie and the adjacent Museum of the 20th Century, which is under development.
In a decision announced last February, the museum said Biesenbach, the director, would become artistic director and lead the museum along with an executive director. Burton was hired for that job earlier this month. But in the statement on Tuesday the museum said it does not plan to hire another artistic director. Instead, Burton will run the museum solo beginning on Nov. 1. The interim will serve as a transition period.
Though brief, the announcement appears to confirm the implications of the museum’s earlier decision to divide the job as an effort to compensate for Biesenbach’s management weaknesses.
When Burton was appointed, Maria Seferian, MOCA’s chairwoman, said: “I don’t think it is one job. I think this is the right model for us right now.”
Asked about why that model had now shifted back, Seferian said in a telephone interview: “We met the moment that we were in. There was a logic behind it at the time and circumstances have changed.”
Burton’s background equips her to handle the whole job; she is currently head of the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University. Before that, she served as the director and curator of education and public engagement at the New Museum in New York; director of the graduate program at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College; and associate director of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study program.
“The museum is in excellent hands with Johanna,” the statement said, adding that Burton “has the full faith and confidence of the museum to lead MOCA into the future.”