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March 10, 2015

Scene and Heard: Philippe Vergne

“I come from an old colonial background, stealing treasures from other cultures. That’s why I came here, I’m still looking for the treasure,” joked MOCA director Philippe Vergne, during a panel discussion at the Blue Ribbon Leaders in the Arts luncheon held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Wednesday, March 4. Carla Sands, head of the Blue Ribbon of the Los Angeles Music Center, a nonprofit promoting music and dance for school children, put together the panel of major L.A. museum directors that included Vergne; Michael Govan of LACMA; Steven Kolik of the Huntington Library, Arts Collections, and Botanical Gardens; Ann Philbin of the Hammer; and Timothy Potts of the J. Paul Getty Museum that was moderated by Earl Powell III of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Vergne was speaking about diversity in museums, one of the two topics covered during the hour-long chat (the other was technology).

After his initial bon mot, Vergne, who is French, turned serious and noted that, “diversity has to come through the voice of the artist.” He said museums needed to search globally for works to round out their collections. “If people speak the same language as the artist, they can identify,” he said. Vergne also quipped about the digital developments at his museum, “MOCA had an award-winning website, circa 1997,” he said. “We can give it to you to decode,” he told Kolik of the Huntington, who had just announced that his museum would be using crowd sourcing to decipher telegrams sent to Abraham Lincoln via Western Union during the Civil War. Vergne added that spending time on such projects is a function of art. “We all go very fast all the time. I think we can use it [the digital experience] to slow the time down so that people take more time with the art,” he said.

By Elizabeth Varnell


Pictured: Valerie Hoffman and Philippe Vergne at the Blue Ribbon Leaders in the Arts luncheon held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. 
Photo by: John McCoy

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