Also unclear is the status of the five trustees who joined the board under Biesenbach in 2018, namely Dr. Adrian Cheng, Marina Kellen French, Simon Mordant, Sean Parker and Julia Stoschek.
French, in particular, is a close friend of Biesenbach’s and could well leave the board with his departure, particularly because she is mostly tied to New York, where she serves on the board of the Metropolitan Opera, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Carnegie Hall. Her departure would be a loss for the MOCA board, given French’s financial capacities: earlier this year, she endowed the Met Museum’s directorship position, and Max Hollein is now known as the Marina Kellen French Director.
MOCA has seemed like a revolving door of directors, moving from Jeremy Strick to Jeffrey Deitch to Philippe Vergne to Biesenbach. There were also the very public stormy departures of chief curators, Paul Schimmel and Helen Molesworth. And the museum weathered a raid on its endowment to pay the bills and a proposed merger with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“I’m not entirely surprised that this was that short-lived — it seems to be very difficult over there,” said Kristy Edmunds, the executive and artistic director of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. “Now let’s move MOCA into a full position of support for Johanna to carry the baton forward.”
The day before the announcement of Biesenbach’s departure, he was on hand to herald the opening of a new exhibit by Pipilotti Rist, a Swiss video artist, at the Geffen Contemporary, MOCA’s warehouse space in downtown Los Angeles. It was a signature exhibition that had been in the works for nearly three years and Biesenbach, along with Rist, led the news conference before opening the doors to the warehouse maze of her videos. He gave no indication that this would be his final public moment with MOCA or of the imminent announcement from Berlin.
Born in Germany, Biesenbach, 55, came to Los Angeles after serving as the director of MoMA PS1 since 2009. He was appointed curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2006. And, at the age of 25, he was one of the founders of the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, which is where he began his career in museums.