NORTH MIAMI, Fla. — Anyone looking to meet the director of the tiny but highly regarded Museum of Contemporary Art here has two choices. Head into the museum, where its interim director, Alex Gartenfeld, has an office. Or go next door to City Hall, where the city manager’s appointee to the same position, Babacar M’Bow, is essentially working in exile.
The dueling directors are just part of the chaos emanating from a bitter showdown that has erupted between MoCA, as the museum is known, and the city that founded it.
The museum’s board, which has not approved Mr. M’Bow’s appointment, wants to leave this working-class city and merge with the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, its wealthier and more glamorous neighbor. It says that North Miami has neglected the museum building and failed to support a needed expansion.
City officials, in turn, accuse the board of secretly plotting to make off with North Miami’s cultural patrimony. “The collection belongs to the city, and they are trying to steal it,” Mayor Lucie Tondreau said.
The departure may not resonate on the scale of, say, the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn, but the threatened loss of the city’s only art museum to a flashier oceanside neighbor is producing a sizable dose of rancor here.
Museum officials say the city has changed the passwords on email accounts. City employees say the museum cut off access to its bank statements. Both sides have filed lawsuits.
Yet the legal wrangling may overshadow the more profound issues that confront this and other cities across the country that are engaged in complicated public-private partnerships.
Who owns a museum? The city that founded it? The community it serves? The donors who helped finance it or the board members entrusted to run it?
Read the full article here
Intriguing and sad really. I hope MoCA gets it act together. The museum has always struggled with its identity, partly because of the location. But because it has struggled it has also pushed the limits to get noticed. Some of the most challenging shows in South Florida have been at MoCA and I hope that continues.
To me the museum was serving a gap, not just in what it chose to show but North Miami is a community that was lacking a strong cultural institution.
My criticism would be that the art shown did not strive to reflect the community, a failure of most museums these days. I'm all for bringing in shows to expand an audiences world but also think artwork produced by members of the community or from the communities original home country should be shown.
And to read that the museum board (or some on it) want to move the museum's collection to another city entirely?!? Every board member should be committed to the organization and the community it serves.
I would be looking for new board members. New members that could build on past successes and who understand the importance of the organization to the community it serves. New members that had the skills to fund raise for improvements and repairs and not complain or rely upon cash strapped city governments for funds. GL