Time for a hot MOCA break!

Hot MocaIt seems that the ICA gals are still having trouble finding a director for their spin-off museum.

The Art Newspaper reported in February that “in less than five months after announcing [her] appointment,” the former  trustees of North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art lost its interim director of their new venture.  After her brief directorship of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Suzanne Weaver resigned from her position.

TAN published another column today, Miami’s art museums are becoming rudderless ships, with the subtitled blurb, “Nearly half the city’s institutions are without leaders as powerful patrons, unruly trustees, funding issues and rivalries between ethnic groups make the waters nearly impossible to navigate.”

The Pérez Art Museum (PAMM), for one, is losing its second director in less than eight years.

According to the article, this type of rapid turnover is atypical and unprecedented.

The previous generation of directors stayed in their jobs for decades (Bonnie Clearwater was at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in North Miami for nearly 20 years before leaving in July 2013; Diane Camber led the Bass Museum for 27 years before stepping down in 2007, and Cathy Leff was at the helm of the Wolfsonian for 18 years until April last year—the institution has been without a director since her departure.

As the boards of local museums try to adjust to this new trend, the competition for patrons – and funding – is getting fierce.  The pressure is then put on the directors, who are forced to “spend much, possibly most, of their time in an undoubtedly exhausting quest to secure the support of wealthy locals as well as government funding.”  Little wonder that many of them are leaving for posts outside south Florida.

Although lack of money was the excuse given by the former MOCA board of trustees when they tried to leave North Miami and close the museum, both the New York Times and now The Art Newspaper (as well as yours truly) intimated that it had more to do with class and racial issues than with funding.

As you can imagine, I felt a not-so-small thrill of not-so-guilty pleasure when I read:

The most high-profile casualty of this surge of ambition has been MoCA North Miami, where trustees failed to gain voter approval for a $13.5m expansion through a city bond issue in 2012. They spent last year battling the City of North Miami, which owns the MoCA building. In their lawsuit against the city, the trustees argued that competition from Art Basel and Pamm had made it much more difficult to retain the reputation of MoCA and they accused the city of neglecting their building. The tussle ended with the city taking control of the museum and appointing its own director, Babacar M’Bow. He accused his predecessors of having snubbed local, mostly black and Hispanic audiences. Under their leadership, “MoCA was a playground for the rich and famous; that era is gone,” he said.

The former MoCA trustees, who are nearly all white, are now building their own gallery in the Design District with funding from local billionaires Irma and Norman Braman, and have renamed themselves the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). Like Pamm, the ICA is also searching for a new leader following the departure of interim director Suzanne Weaver, who left earlier this year, just months after being appointed. The ICA insists that Weaver was never meant to stay longer but no interim director is hired to lead an institution for just three months.

Meanwhile, under the directorship of Babacar M’Bow, everything at the Museum of Contemporary Art is coming along quite nicely.

The best revengeQuite nicely, indeed!

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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One Comment

  1. Barbix says:

    I was discussing this with a friend the other day – it’s also Miami, the transient nature of this town. Why people leave, why they move on. It’s solid, non-transient places like New York City that attract the kind of donor money (since there is longevity there) and the kind of culture that is longstanding.

    For all the great things about Miami, we all know it is not qualities that make a city respected in ways that others are (high levels of intelligence as a quality people respect, excellent array of colleges, world class museums IN BULK). We have other reasons people love this place.

    Not complaining, I am here for the warmth and my family, and of course there are smart people here, but we do not have a standard of world-class across the board here – I mean there are departments and exceptions, for sure, but this is not an older city with a history of patrons, arts, culture, etc… if I am communicating well.

    (My friend and I were talking about the arts community, if you are a Rockefeller etc you dont invest in a city like Miami… and that is understandable… plus we may be under water at some point…). Just adding. And not complaining… and I am not expecting it to change. NYC is NYC, and the great museums in other cities too even in places in the Midwest…. Miami, not so much (and add the attitude of pettiness that often surfaces in this town, another indicator of a place you may not want to invest your career or legacy)…. but it is a fun, lively, cool place to live. With the world’s greatest Blogger!


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