Painting the Town: Curator Shamim Momin Makes Her Mark in LA

Curator Shamim Momin is taking contemporary art out of galleries and into public spaces.

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Shamim Momin

Photo By Stefanie Keenan

In March, art curator Shamim Momin commissioned 57 contemporary artists, from Terence Koh and Nate Lowman to Sue de Beer, to create works inspired by rock ’n’ roll posters for an exhibit during the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Tex. Now, Momin, director of the nonprofit art organization Los Angeles Nomadic Division, has recruited the same talents for a new show of poster-based works, “The Secret (Still) Knows,” on display at the Lab in Culver City, Calif., through Aug. 16.

The project was celebrated Wednesday night with a benefit co-hosted by François-Henri Pinault, Salma Hayek, John Baldessari and James Franco, among others, at the home of collector Eugenio López Alonso, president of the Jumex Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports contemporary Mexican art. And tonight, there will be a cocktail party in honor of the show at the Sunset Tower in Los Angeles.

But this semiconventional trajectory — hang art in a gallery, celebrate with a fancy fete — isn’t typical of Momin’s style. Since moving to the West Coast after 12 years at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where she co-curated the 2004 and 2008 biennials, Momin has avoided confining works to four walls. Instead, she’s taken advantage of Los Angeles’ urban sprawl, displaying pieces everywhere from Videotrons on the Sunset Strip and a sidewalk in downtown to a chicken coop.

“L.A. has become increasingly relevant in the contemporary art world,” Momin says. “It is part of our mission to do things all over the place and grow L.A. as the center spoke.”

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