Helen Molesworth became chief curator of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 2014. Before joining a Zócalo/MOCA panel discussion—“Were the ’90s L.A.’s Golden Age?”—in conjunction with the exhibition Don’t Look Back: The 1990s at MOCA, she talked in the Zócalo green room about being a bouncer at a lesbian bar, her major 1990s fashion faux pas, and how to seduce someone who doesn’t like L.A. into falling for the city.
What’s your favorite spot in Downtown L.A.?
I love the Grand Central Market. I’m there a lot.
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
I was a bouncer at a lesbian bar. I mean it wasn’t a strange job. But, I think that’s what people want to hear, right?
How do you pass the time when you’re stuck in traffic?
I love listening to music in my car. So if the traffic is really bad, I try playing music I really want to listen to and tell myself that’s what’s happening—what I’m actually doing is listening to music.
What’s your favorite museum to visit, outside of MOCA of course?
The old master museum, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, in Vienna. It’s an amazing museum.
What’s your most inexcusable habit?
Before living here, I would have said smoking dope because I smoked dope in a state where it’s illegal. But here it’s legal. … I’m a clotheshorse. I buy really nice clothes.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Oh, it’s so boring. I eat either homemade granola and fresh fruit or muesli and fresh fruit with skim milk. It’s really tedious.
Did you make any 1990s fashion faux pas?
Yes of course. I wore stirrup pants.
Where do you take out-of-town guests in Los Angeles?
A movie at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome. Martinis at Musso & Frank Grill. Sunday supper at Lucques. The Maria Cornejo store on Melrose Place. Mameg on Little Santa Monica. And Gjusta in Venice. Some version of that is a perfect L.A. day that I would use to seduce someone who doesn’t like L.A.
What was the greatest decade for art in the 20th century?
That is a ridiculously hard question. For me I guess it’s a tie between the ’50s and the ’80s.
What was the last thing that made you laugh?
I have a very funny wife, and I’m very lucky she makes me laugh really hard every day.