The Museum of Contemporary Art has announced that Helen Molesworth of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston will join MOCA as new chief curator on Sept. 1.
Molesworth will bring with her a set of skills and experience to take on the challenges that have faced MOCA in recent years, MOCA said.
"We needed someone who loved art," said MOCA director Phillippe Vergne on Take Two. "The capacity to engage with artists, to engage with the history of the museum, with the amazing collection that MOCA has."
Molesworth spoke with Take Two's A Martinez to explain more about how their leadership will help push the museum into the future.
Why did you want this position?
"I'm so excited about the position. I've loved the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. from afar for so many years. I hope everyone knows in your audience [that] it has the most extraordinary reputation worldwide for its exhibition history and for its collection and for, really, its commitment to artists. And I hope to continue to build on those incredible strengths and help it move into this new 21st century landscape where the public's interest in contemporary art seems to grow in leaps and bounds. It's the role of the museum, I think, to present the most challenging art of our time, within a context that makes it available to new audiences."
What are some of the challenges you can see already?
"As a native New Yorker, I think my number one challenge will be the freeway system. More seriously, I think the challenges that MOCA faces are the challenges that almost all museums of contemporary art face. Which is that contemporary artists, even though we are very reticent to use the phase avant garde, they are typically working at the edge of what the culture is doing. We have to be on the edge, but always trying to figure out how to give people a context for assimilating and understanding and having pleasure in being on that edge."
Do you see Eli Broad's upcoming museum near MOCA as a competitor?
"I think that the two museums will be really complementary. I think it makes it an extraordinary destination for outsiders visiting L.A. For native Los Angelenos, that's a great day of art on Grand Avenue."
What are some of the resources here in L.A. you hope to draw on?
"One of the things that [has] made L.A. so unique as a major center now for contemporary art is the density and number of art schools in your city. I think that, for many of us from afar, that has always seemed so compelling, because you have many of the best artists in the world teach at the art institutions in L.A. There's a sense that teaching art is a privilege, a responsibility, something that's interesting and good for you to do if you're an artist. I think that MOCA will be able to draw on a really deep well of intellectual capital throughout the art schools in the area."
Can you give us a hint to what your first exhibition will be?
"The first exhibition that I will bring to MOCA is a retrospective survey of the artist Kerry James Marshall, who actually spent his childhood in Los Angeles and went to Otis and studied with the very famous and very important artist Charles White. The exhibition will be a bit of a homecoming for Kerry James and then Phillippe and I will work on making a really terrific program of exhibitions."