MOCA Update: Mum’s still the word

Moca Galleries Closed


Ever since the June 18, 2014 report from the Miami New Times, MOCA Allegedly Reaches Agreement With North Miami: M’Bow Stays, Trustees to Leave With Artworks, and the response from North Miami’s attorneys denying it, there has been radio silence from both the the Museum of Contemporary Art and its host city as to whether or not a settlement has really been reached.

The most recent document, The Board’s Motion to Strike, was posted on the City of North Miami’s website, MOCA@THE CROSSROADS – Documents Related to the Legal Case between the City and MOCA, on June 10, 2014.  The web page not been updated since June 16, 2014.

The museum’s website starkly announces on its homepage, “MOCA GALLERIES CLOSED FOR RE-INSTALLATION.”

Whether this declaration is referring to the re-installation of new artwork, or a new board of trustees, is anyone’s guess.

There are no Current Exhibitions listed.

Only one Upcoming Exhibition is posted, but no dates have been announced.

The MOCA Galleries’ celebrated history includes eighty three Past Exhibitions dating from February 1, 1997 through July 6, 2014.  These exhibits included displays by such well known artists as Roy Lichtenstein and Yoko Ono, as well as thematic group exhibitions, such as MOCA and Miami and Abstract Cinema & Technology.  MOCA also exhibited “the first major exhibition to explore the relationship between contemporary art and rock music over the past forty years,” in Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock & Roll Since 1967.

After the museum’s board of trustees decided to declare war on the City of North Miami, the Galleries’ doors were locked.  The only “productions” currently taking place are at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse.  The only “exhibits” being offered by MOCA these days are those attached to documents filed in connection with the ongoing lawsuits.

Sadly, if it was the elitist board of trustees’ intent to make sure that North Miami’s “commoners” have no cultural distractions from their “working class” lives, the board has achieved its end goal.  The trustees have, in essence, all but shut down the museum, the only exception being a Summer Camp program for seven to ten year old children beginning July 28, 2014 and running until August 8, 2014.  Once camp is over, nothing else is in the works.

I’m sure the trustees will find a way to point the finger of blame at the Mayor and Council for appointing Babacar M’Bow as the museum’s director and curator, rather than toward their own refusal to approve the appointment.  By not previously lining up any exhibitions beyond July 6, 2014, it’s quite obvious the board had decided to vacate the City’s building long before they made it public, taking with them the museum’s permanent art collection.

If the board expected no push back from the Mayor and Council, they were in for a rude awakening.  A counter suit was promptly filed and the court then ordered a mediation between the parties.  More than a month has passed without a word from either camp about the status of the case or the settlement talks.

Sources have told me that the only given so far is that the City won the battle over the directorship of the museum.  As far as Babacar M’Bow is concerned, the position has been his from the start, and he has acted accordingly.

I’m told that the settlement is being held up by the battle over the artwork, pieces from the permanent collection which are “frequently on loan to major museum exhibitions around the world.”  Both sides are fighting over which of those pieces will go and which will stay in North Miami’s MOCA.  They’re also trying to agree on who will pay for what.  One of my sources intimated that these settlement talks are best described as a Divorce from Hell.  (Oh, boy, do I know that feeling.)

One of the local mixed media artists whose work is included in the museum’s permanent collection is Pablo Cano.  His work is currently being featured at the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.  A Miami Herald article published today, Exhibit tracks artists – and Miami art scene, describes Cano as one of nine of “the first generation Cuban exile artists influenced in their formative years by Miami as much as by Cuba.”  The exhibit, The Miami Generation: Revisited, includes pieces from the nine artists’ earlier years after arriving in the Mariel boatlift as well as their current work, with the exception of three who “passed away during their prime.”  The show represents an important part of the history of South Florida’s multi-cultural art scene.

Pablo Cano is also the artist who was told by MOCA’s board appointed interim director, Alex Gartenfeld, that his annual fall production – sixteen years in the making – The Art of the Play, was canceled.  As the Miami New Times reported in At MOCA North Miami, a Battle Over Race, Pablo Cano became collateral damage as his show was caught “in the middle of a tug of war between the museum board and the city.”  Although MOCA’s city appointed director, Babacar M’Bow told Cano that the show will go on and to “continue working on the production for MOCA,” the future of this exhibit, and others, is still up in the air.  MOCA’s website is not updated and parts of it are “currently offline.”  This is not a good sign.

In the meantime, as I reported in Fishy business at the MOCA, Alex Gartenfeld was rumored to be “actively seeking a position with the Perez Art Museum Miami,” one of MOCA’s strongest competitors for patrons of the arts – as well as funding.

Funding, however, doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for PAMM.  If Gartenfeld did intend to leave for greener pastures (literally and figuratively), it might be because Miami-Dade County has slated an additional “$2.5 million boost in government support,” in addition to it’s “new $130 million waterfront headquarters built largely with government money,” according to a recent Miami Herald article Pérez Art Museum seeks $4 million in hotel tax money.

Yes, that sucking sound you hear is that of your property tax dollars being siphoned to PAMM, at the same time “other non-profits supported by Miami-Dade face a 10 percent cut, and as [Mayor Carlos] Gimenez is warning of police layoffs and service reductions.”

You just have to love a comment posted on a July 23, 2014 Eye On Miami post, What’s in a name? Guest blog by Smarterthanyou.

Anonymous said…

How about fake museums? Perez Art Museum Miami FKA Miami Art Museum is getting another $1 Mil today, July 23rd, from the OMNI CRA. Yup. Noon at City Hall. This financial black hole is losing $14 Mil to $15 Mil per year AND this the same “museum” that promised to raise an endowment from private donors. EOM is right, debt service costs us money. Taxpayers screwed again.

If the rumor proves true that Gartenfeld is looking for a job at the Pérez, at least he’s following the money.

While the doors to the MOCA Galleries remain closed, income is not being generated for either the City of North Miami or the Museum of Contemporary Art.

While extended settlement talks are being conducted behind closed doors out of the Sunshine, the sucking sound North Miami taxpayers hear is that of their hard earned money being siphoned into the pockets of lawyers.

As with most divorces, the only winners in the settlement between the MOCA board of trustees and the City North Miami will be … yep, you guessed it … the lawyers.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Ned says:

    Good article and good follow up Stephanie as you hit the nail with the hammer …. Alex and the lawyers win in this case!


  2. […] the end of July, there was still no word on a MOCA settlement, VotersOpinion endorsed (yeah, go ahead and LOL) Jean Monestime for County Commission, the North […]


  3. […] The only thing left to be decided in mediation now is who gets to keep which of the 600 pieces of the permanent art collection that is now being held hostage in storage while the doors of MOCA remain “closed for re-installation.” […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *