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Gazette Premium Content 3 artists who quit LA museum's board are returning

Associated Press Updated: March 18, 2014 at 9:31 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three of the four prominent artists who resigned from the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art after its popular curator was fired are returning to the museum, which is now under the leadership of a new director.

MOCA announced Tuesday that John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger and Catherine Opie have been elected to its board along with fellow artist Mark Grotjahn.

MOCA was embarrassed in 2012 when Baldessari, Kruger, Opie and Ed Ruscha quit in protest of the dismissal of longtime curator Paul Schimmel. The four were the only artists on the museum's board at the time.

Since their departure, the museum's director, Jeffrey Deitch, has resigned and been replaced by Philippe Vergne, who arrived this month from New York, where he was head of the Dia Art Foundation.

"I'm very excited about the prospects for MOCA with Philippe leading us and I want to be supportive," Baldessari said in a statement issued by the museum.

MOCA officials said the returning artists all helped in recruiting the new director.

Vergne arrives at a time when fortunes appear to be turning for LA's only museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art.

After several years of financial turmoil, MOCA announced in January that it had quadrupled its endowment to more than $100 million with an ambitious, nine-month fundraising drive aided by more than two dozen of LA's deepest-pocketed arts patrons. A drive to raise $50 million more is currently under way.

Before launching the effort MOCA rejected a takeover offer from the larger Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Six years ago MOCA was in danger of going under when billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad rescued it with $30 million.

Despite its financial troubles, the museum holds an impressive collection of contemporary art, including numerous works by Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Ruscha and each of the new artist board members.

The museum celebrates its 35th anniversary on March 29 at its Geffen Contemporary campus with a gala showcasing a highly anticipated exhibition of works by the late Southern California artist Mike Kelley.

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