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Julio César Morales. Photo: Rembrandt Quinallo.
Julio César Morales. Photo: Rembrandt Quinallo.

MoCA Tucson Reveals New Leadership Team

The Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson has named Julio César Morales as its new executive director and cochief curator, beginning December 1. Laura Copelin will move up from her current role as the institution’s interim director and curator-at-large to become its deputy director and co-chief curator. According to the museum, the pair’s collaboration is meant to “experiment with new ways small museums can function both organizationally and as responsive agents within their communities, serving as a locus for consequential projects with international reach.”

Morales, a practicing artist who uses various media to investigate issues of migration, underground economies, and labor, is known for his ability to cultivate philanthropic support. Prior to arriving at MoCA Tucson, he served as senior curator at the Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe. From 2008 to 2012, he was adjunct curator for visual arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; in that same city, he founded the artist-run project space Queens Nails Annex, serving as the gallery’s director from 2003 to 2012. In 2013, he was a contributing curator for the Japanese pavilion at the Fifty-Fifth Venice Biennale.

Before coming to MoCA Tucson three years ago, Copelin spent more than seven years as executive director and curator at Ballroom Marfa; she had previously been an assistant curator at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Among the exhibitions she organized at MoCA Tucson are the group exhibition “were-: Nenetech Forms” (2021–22), coconceptualized with artists rafa esparza and Timo Fahler and exploring migration and adaptation in the Sonoran Desert; “Grace Rosario Perkins: The Relevance of Your Data,” the artist’s first institutional exhibition, which closed earlier this month; and “Cecilia Vicuña: Sonoran Quipu.” Opening in January 2023, that exhibition will feature two major new works by Vicuña: one of the monumental quipu installations for which she is widely known, and an artist book on which she has been working for more than thirty years.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Julio César Morales to MoCA,” said museum board president Kira Dixon-Weinstein. “Julio’s vision and experience—demonstrated by his work as a curator, artist and cultural leader—brings so much vitality to MoCA, and will help us continue to serve artists and audiences. His understanding of the art world in Arizona and internationally adds a new, deeply relevant perspective to the museum. Alongside Laura––who continues to build momentum, stability, and increase resources for artists at MoCA—their collective vision for shared leadership and the museum’s future opens an exciting new chapter for MoCA.”