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The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, has fired chief curator Helen Molesworth for “undermining the museum.”

Artsy Editors
Mar 13, 2018 2:00PM, via the Los Angeles Times

An email was sent Monday to the trustees of MOCA, Los Angeles, informing them that Molesworth was “stepping down” from the role, with the implication that it was her choice. But on Tuesday, the artist Catherine Opie, a board member, told Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight that she had spoken to director Philippe Vergne on the phone, and he said he had fired her for “undermining the museum.” Knight reports that Opie responded to Vergne by saying, “I think you have made a terrible mistake.” Molesworth joined the museum in 2014, having previously been the chief curator at the ICA Boston, and has long been a champion of artists and movements that have not gotten their institutional due. A rehang of MOCA’s permanent collection in January 2016 was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “upending the story of art.” Perhaps this clashed with the aims of Vergne, and the museum’s board; a statement provided by MOCA alluded to “creative differences,” and sources told Knight that “conflict had arisen between Vergne and Molesworth over the direction of the artistic program, with Vergne assuming curatorial duties less commonly the purview of a museum director.” The firing comes in the wake of artist Mark Grotjahn backing out of being honored at the museum’s annual gala because the honorees had not been diverse enough—as Grotjahn said in a statement, “our country and the world have changed in ways that were difficult to anticipate.” That news came in February, about two weeks after the artist Lari Pittman, who is gay and Latino, stepped down from the board because of a lack of shared vision among the museum’s board members, curators, and director.

Artsy Editors
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