MOCA Announces Clara Kim as New Chief Curator

The Museum of Contemporary Art has appointed Clara Kim as Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs. Kim, originally from Angeleno, comes to the museum in London Tate Modern, where she has been Senior Curator of International Art since 2016.

“I’m so thrilled to be back home – it’s where my foundation is both personally and in the art world,” Kim said in an interview. “I am delighted to be in such a prestigious place as MOCA, where I have attended many exhibitions over the years, but also to be back in the artistic and artistic community which makes Los Angeles such a unique place.”

Kim brings to MOCA both a global perspective and an intimate understanding of the SoCal art scene — and California at large. She was born in Seoul and raised in the Greater LA area. She worked for eight years at REDCAT, as a gallery director and curator, and has also worked as a curator at both the San Francisco Art Institute and the the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Kim also has worked extensively in Europe and Asia. She organized the 2018 Gwangju Biennale in South Korea as well as the 2010 Seoul Mediacity Biennale. archive on Asian American art for the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju.

Her vision for MOCA includes merging these perspectives, “being rooted locally, knowing where we are, and embracing all the amazing things that make LALA,” she said, “but also having an international perspective — not only looking but looking at the connections and the stories that unite us… the people and the families and the stories embedded in the city we live in.”

The region’s “wonderfully rich” diversity, she added, is key to the exhibitions to come.

“There are so many different communities, so many different languages ​​that are spoken, and embracing that diversity and those diasporic communities that are in Southern California in order to see how international it is, that’s a perspective “, she said. “It’s so ingrained in the fabric of Southern California that we have to embrace it and bring it out – not do the shows that make sense in New York and London, but do the shows with an international perspective that make sense in Los Angeles.”

What could it be, exactly?

“I don’t come with shows and ideas in my pocket,” Kim said. “I really want to work with the curatorial team and, of course, [museum Director] Johanna [Burton]to really build this program.

Burton called Kim a “talented and trusted curator and artistic leader” in the ad: “She has extensive experience in commissioning, presenting and contextualizing contemporary artists; lead global and interdisciplinary research initiatives; and build collections strategically. His vision will help extend and expand the museum’s distinctive legacy as we look to our next era.

Kim curated LA artist Mark Bradford’s first major museum exhibition in Asia, ‘Tears of a Tree’, at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai in 2015. In 2017, she curated ‘Condemned to Be Modern’ at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, which was part of Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibit and explored the history of modern architecture in Latin America, particularly Brazil, Cuba and Mexico.

“It’s a project that embodies the possibilities of those two things, local and international coming together,” Kim said of the PST show. “It was an opportunity to research modern architecture in these places, not just from a historical perspective, but looking at it in the context of the present.”

Looking at art history through an anti-racist and decolonial lens is also key to Kim’s curatorial vision for MOCA, she said.

“We tend to think of art history as something codified and static and written in the history books, whereas I think there are histories of exclusion and dynamics of the art world that don’t allow certain artists or certain stories to be told,” she says. “Our work as art historians and curators must be actively engaged not only with the stories we have inherited, but also with the stories that have yet to be written.”

During his tenure, Kim expanded the Tate’s international art holdings, complementing art histories in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It has acquired several works by important modern and contemporary artists from these regions, as well as from the diaspora, including the Lebanese artist Huguette Caland, the Filipino artist Pacita Abad and the Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping.

Before the Tate, Kim was senior curator of visual arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from 2011 to 2014.

The region’s robust mix of artists, galleries, museums and art schools make up “an incredible and unique ecosystem that exists in Southern California,” Kim said. “I think I have an understanding of that and a desire to be a part of it – that MOCA just isn’t this finished space within the walls of a museum, but MOCA is a place that’s part of the art world, part of that ecosystem. It’s pretty special. Not every city has that.”

Kim joins the museum on September 1.

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