Clara Kim, a star curator at Tate Modern in London with a focus on the interconnections between artistic communities along the Pacific Rim, will be the next chief curator and director of curatorial affairs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Kim will begin in her new role on September 1.
An L.A. native, Kim has been senior curator of international art at Tate Modern since 2016, where she organized an acclaimed survey of artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen in 2020 and Kara Walker’s lauded Turbine Hall commission, Fons Americanus, in 2019. While there, she has helped to expand Tate’s permanent collection, with an eye toward “post-colonial and transnational art histories that re-chart and re-map narratives of art,” according to a release.
She also served as a co-curator of the 2018 Gwangju Biennale and the 2017 exhibition “Condemned to be Modern,” which was part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative. Previously, Kim was senior curator of visual arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and gallery director and curator at REDCAT in L.A.
“Throughout my career, I have championed art through exhibitions, residencies, and commissions, driven by the fundamental belief in the possibility of cultural dialogue and exchange to transform individuals and communities,” Kim said in a statement, “As a diverse, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic city, Los Angeles is uniquely positioned to chart new paths and horizons for contemporary art and what museums should look like in the 21st century.”
The position of chief curator at the long-embattled museum has been vacant since 2018 after Helen Molesworth was fired by then-director Philippe Vergne, who soon departed the institution. When Klaus Biesenbach joined the institution as director, he did not hire a chief curator, but instead named Mia Locks as senior curator and director of new initiatives. Locks resigned from her role in early 2021, saying “MOCA’s leadership is not yet ready to fully embrace IDEA,” referring to the acronym inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.
Last September, MOCA announced a restructuring of its senior leadership, demoting Biesenbach from director to artistic director and hiring Johanna Burton as executive director; the two were intended to co-lead the institution. Days later, Biesenbach announced that he would depart MOCA to lead the Neue Nationalgalerie and the forthcoming Museum of the 20th Century, two affiliated institutions in Berlin, where he got his start in the museum world.
Upon Biesenbach’s departure, Burton was named the institution’s director. Kim is Burton’s first major hire at the institution.
In a statement on Kim’s hiring, Burton said, “I could not be more excited to announce that Clara Kim is joining MOCA at this pivotal moment in the institution’s history and as I begin my own tenure here. Clara is a talented and trusted curator and arts leader. She has extensive experience commissioning, presenting, and contextualizing contemporary artists; leading global, interdisciplinary research initiatives; and strategically building collections. Her vision will help extend and expand the museum’s distinctive legacy as we look ahead to our next era.”