MOCA L.A. Senior Curator Resigns Over Museum’s Handling of Diversity Initiatives

One of the country’s most closely watched curators has resigned from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, accusing its leadership of being resistant to adhering to its commitment to diversity.

Mia Locks, who joined MOCA in July 2019 as senior curator and head of new initiatives, resigned from the institution late last month, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

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One of the initiatives that Locks began at MOCA shortly after her appointment began was one devoted to IDEA, an acronym for inclusion, diversity, equity, and access. In an email from Locks to staff announcing her resignation on March 26, the curator said, “MOCA’s leadership is not yet ready to fully embrace IDEA,” according to the L.A. Times, which verified the email.

In an email to the L.A. Times, a MOCA spokesperson said, “We are working across our organization to fulfill our IDEA vision, taking tangible and immediate steps that include anti-racism workshops, an internal compensation survey and position audit, the formation of a multi-language task force and the creation of a dedicated IDEA staff position.”

ARTnews has reached out to Locks for comment.

Locks’s hiring at MOCA was viewed as a major one, given her acclaimed 2017 edition of the Whitney Biennial, curated with Christopher Y. Lew. She had also previously worked at MoMA PS1 in New York, where she cocurated the 2015 Greater New York survey. Shortly before she was hired, MOCA had experienced a period of turmoil that saw the firing of chief curator Helen Molesworth and the subsequent resignation of director Philippe Vergne.

In addition to Lock’s resignation, the L.A. Times also reported that MOCA’s human resources director Carlos Viramontes had also resigned earlier this year, citing a “hostile [work] environment” and claiming that the museum and that his supervisor, MOCA deputy director Amy Shapiro, had retaliated against him. The MOCA spokesperson has denied that Shapiro retaliated against Viramontes.

After Molesworth was fired, the museum eliminated the role of chief curator; instead it has had two senior curators, Locks and longtime MOCA employee Bennett Simpson. According to the L.A. Times, MOCA could be restructuring its leadership, with director Klaus Biesenbach moving into the role of artistic director as the museum looks to hire an executive director.


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