Fine Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo by Christopher Paulin via Flickr

Helen Molesworth, the chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, has been fired.

MOCA Director Philippe Vergne fired Molesworth Monday, sources close to the museum told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday.

An email sent to MOCA trustees Monday afternoon and obtained by The Times announced that Molesworth “is stepping down” from the high-profile post, among the most coveted of its kind nationally, effective immediately. The implication was that Molesworth had resigned.

“No,” artist and board member Catherine Opie said by phone when asked about the email wording. “He fired her.”

MOCA responded to The Times’ requests for comment with a statement Tuesday afternoon that said: “The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Helen Molesworth have decided to part ways due to creative differences. MOCA is grateful to Helen Molesworth for her work over the past 3 and a half years as Chief Curator at the Museum.”

The statement said Molesworth “will continue to work with MOCA on her upcoming exhibition `One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art,’ scheduled to open in October 2018.”

Opie said she called Vergne after receiving the surprise message and was told that Molesworth had not written a letter of resignation but was terminated for “undermining the museum.” Opie was nonplussed.

“I think you have made a terrible mistake” by firing her, she said she told Vergne, The Times reported.

Molesworth joined the MOCA staff in 2014, moving to Los Angeles from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Since then she has been responsible as lead curator for the museum’s two most critically admired shows – – “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry,” a blockbuster that saw galleries crowded with visitors during its run last spring, and “Anna Maria Maiolino,” a retrospective of the Brazilian artist that was a highlight of the citywide, Getty-sponsored initiative “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” in the fall.

—City News Service

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