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MOCA Los Angeles announces the appointment of Helen Molesworth as Chief Curator
Molesworth joins MOCA from the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Photo © John Kennard.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Following an extensive, international search, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles announced today that Helen Molesworth has been appointed Chief Curator effective September 1, 2014. A distinguished scholar, writer, and curator, Molesworth joins MOCA from the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, where she has served for four years, overseeing a rigorous program of acclaimed monographic and historical survey exhibitions and an emerging collection of contemporary art.

Molesworth is recognized for her success in redefining the canon of contemporary art as can be seen with recent exhibitions at the ICA including This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, which re-examined the conservative 80’s through the lenses of feminism, AIDS, rapacious business, and queer culture and Dance/Draw, which traced the origins of today's performance art in the intersection between dancing and drawing since the '60s. She has also worked on projects with and contributed to monographic shows for artists including Cathy Opie, Amy Sillman and Josiah McElheny while at the ICA, as well as Zoe Leonard, Louise Lawler, William Pope L, Kerry James Marshall and Luc Tuymans, building deep relationships with these and other artists around the world, many of whom have close connections to Los Angeles and to MOCA.

Molesworth joins MOCA as it embarks on a new era in the strongest position in its history following the recent success of the campaign by the museum’s board to raise its endowment to more than $100 million, the appointment of director Philippe Vergne in March this year and an expanding and renowned permanent collection of more than 6800 works.

“The word curator means to “care for” and Helen Molesworth is the perfect embodiment of caring for art, artists and audiences,” said MOCA Director Philippe Vergne. “Helen has a broad, generous and humble knowledge of art, artists, institutions and collections. Plus a passion for MOCA. She curates transversally; meaning that she does not follow beaten, fashionable paths but knows how to open new roads, diverse roads with integrity and rigor. She is a marvelous scholar and writer and knows how to listen, work and dialogue with artists. I know how deep an impact she is going to have on MOCA and on the Los Angeles art community.”

“Helen has great energy, an amazing knowledge of art and art history and a true love of artists,” said MOCA Board Co-Chair, Maurice Marciano, “She brings to MOCA a deep understanding of sharing complex ideas in a very generous way to rally people together through art.”

Added MOCA Board Co-Chair, Lilly Tartikoff Karatz, “We are thrilled to have an extraordinary, world class curator join the new leadership of our fabulous director Philippe Vergne. We welcome Helen to our Los Angeles family at MOCA.”

“I am honored to join MOCA, an institution whose stellar collection, record of groundbreaking exhibitions, and its core commitment to artists has been a lodestar for institutions of contemporary art around the world. Los Angeles has become one of the leading cities for contemporary art and artists in the country and I am very excited at the prospect at working for and with such an extraordinary community,” said newly appointed chief curator Molesworth.

As the Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the ICA, Molesworth oversaw the museum’s ambitious curatorial program, organizing critically acclaimed exhibitions, producing scholarly catalogues and overseeing a growing permanent collection. Prior to joining the ICA, Molesworth served as head of the department of modern and contemporary art and Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art at the Harvard Art Museum (2007-2010), where she organized a number of noteworthy exhibitions including Long Life Cool White: Photographs by Moyra Davey and ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993. As guest curator at Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Arts, she organized Corbu Pops, an installation by William Pope.L; Paul Chan: Three Easy Pieces; and Felix Gonzales-Torres: “Untitled” (Placebo – Landscape – for Roni), among other exhibitions.

“It is thrilling news to hear of Philippe’s choice of Helen Molesworth for MOCA's next chief curator,” said artist and MOCA trustee Catherine Opie, “I have worked with Helen on two occasions and my regards for her brilliance as a curator is with utmost respect. She pushes artists to think about their work in new ways and thus will bring to MOCA her experience and thoughtfulness for both artists and viewers. Another chapter in MOCA's history for all of us to be excited about.”

“I am absolutely delighted that Helen has been named chief curator of MOCA,” said artist Lari Pittman. “The appointment of Helen signals to the art world that MOCA is committed to artists, the art community and to producing serious work.”

Prior to joining Harvard, Molesworth was chief curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, overseeing the center's exhibitions, programs, and publications. There she co-curated the first United States retrospective of Luc Tuymans as well as the critically acclaimed Part Object, Part Sculpture. She also served as curator of contemporary art at the Baltimore Museum of Art from 2000 to 2002, where she organized the show, Work Ethic. From 1997 to 1999, she was director and curator of the Amelie A. Wallace Gallery at State University of New York (SUNY), Old Westbury. Molesworth also served as senior critic at the Yale School of Art and has held teaching positions at the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies; SUNY, Old Westbury; and the Cooper Union School of Art. She contributed essays on feminist painting to the catalogue of MOCA’s landmark exhibition of feminist art WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, and on how feminism should influence curating to Modern Women, the Museum of Modern Art's 2010 book reexamining how feminism challenges the institution's own version of the history of Modernism. She was a co-founding editor of Documents, a magazine of contemporary visual culture, and is the author of numerous articles appearing in publications such as Art Journal, Artforum, Documents, and October. She received a Ph.D. in the history of art with a dissertation on Marcel Duchamp from Cornell University in 1997.

Molesworth will lead a team of curatorial staff including MOCA Senior Curator Alma Ruiz, who has served at MOCA for 30 years as curator and organizer of notable monographic and thematic exhibitions including The Experimental Exercise of Freedom: Lygia Clark, Gego, Mathias Goeritz, Hélio Oiticica, Mira Schendel (1999), Gabriel Orozco (2000) and Poetics of the Handmade (2007) and most recently, Jacob Hashimoto’s Gas Giant on view at MOCA Pacific Design Center through June 8 and Cinema Vezzoli now on view at MOCA Grand Avenue though August 11 and MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson, who also joined MOCA from the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston where he served as Associate Curator. Simpson has curated and organized diverse, acclaimed and traveling exhibitions for MOCA including most recently Dan Graham: Beyond (2009), William Leavitt: Theater Objects (2011), Blues for Smoke (2012), Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland (2013) and Mike Kelley, now on view at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA through July 28.

Molesworth continues MOCA's internationally-recognized curatorial record, marked by the significant growth MOCA’s renowned permanent collection of works by visionary contemporary artists, and some of the most memorable and monographic, group and thematic exhibitions and artist commissions in contemporary art history including: Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s (1992), Robert Gober (1997), Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979 (1998), A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958–1968 (2004), Ecstasy: In and About Altered States (2005), WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007), © MURAKAMI (2007), Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever (2010), Art in The Streets (2011), Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 (2012) and Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949–1962 (2012), many of which traveled to major museums on national and international tours changing the way audiences around the world engage with art.

Molesworth succeeds former chief curator Paul Schimmel whose oversight of MOCA’s curatorial program and permanent collection for 22 years from 1999 to 2012 made an indelible mark on the legacy of the museum.

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