Thursday, June 19, 2014

At MOCA North Miami, a Battle Not Over Race -- But Control.

MOCA is currently in the middle of a tug of war between the museum board and the city. At the center of the controversy are two directors, Babacar M'Bow and Alex Gartenfeld appointed to do the same job. The current situation at MOCA, is of profound interest because it will impact the Contemporary Art World in one way or the other -- why?  Because a man of color is standing his ground for control of the Directorship of the Museum of Contemporary Art.  This stance is forcing MOCA's Board of Trustees to answer for their actions.  What was once reserved for the Board's discretion will now have to be publicly debated. 
From the different articles we've read and the people we've talked with, this is what we can make out. The MOCA Board of Trustees claims that  . . .
  1. The Board wants to move from the current location in North Miami and merge with the Bass Museum, which is located on South Beach in Miami bringing the museum's 600 piece permanent collection with them because they claim sole jurisdiction over the collection. 
  2. They want to use the vacated space in North Miami as an outpost to do 'minority' programming of which they would have control over what programming is done there.
  3. The Board also dismissed the city of North Miami's appointment of Babacar M'Bow as Director for failure to participate in a standard background check that was requested by the board.  They only recognize the Directorship of Alex Gartenfeld, the Chief Curator who has been acting as an interim Director in place of Bonnie Clearwater who left to take the helm at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art.  
  4. The MOCA BOARD of TRUSTEES assert they have the full right and authority to determine what is in the best interests of the Museum and not the City of North Miami.
BEFORE WE COULD PUBLISH THIS ARTICLE THERE WAS A breaking story from the Miami New Times

MOCA Allegedly Reaches Agreement With North Miami: M'Bow Stays, Trustees to Leave With Artworks.

According to the Miami New Times article -- the heated legal dispute between the Board of Trustees of North Miami"s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the City of North Miami over who controls the museum's collection and whether it will be relocated from its current home to Miami Beach's Bass Museum may have finally come to an end.
BABACAR M'BOW has been confirmed as the new Director of the MOCA
Speaking on condition of confidentiality, the source described the points allegedly agreed upon by MOCA board members and city officials. Among them is the confirmation of Babacar M'Bow as the museum director and the departure of 150 top works of art from MOCA's holdings along with its outgoing Board of Trustees.
THE DECISION WAS SWIFT AND ALL POINTS OF THE SETTLEMENT WERE IN THE FAVOR OF THE CITY OF NORTH MIAMI. 
But this is not reflected in the headline of the Miami New Times article: MOCA Allegedly Reaches Agreement With North Miami: M'Bow Stays, Trustees to Leave With Artworks.
According to the source these are the settlement points in the agreement,
  1. The artwork leaving the North Miami institution will be appraised by Sotheby's, and after a monetary value has been placed on the collection, both parties will pay half of that value to MOCA.
  2. MOCA will officially remain the name of the North Miami contemporary art museum.
  3. A new board will be constituted to carry on the duty of the departing trustees.
  4. Alex Gartenfeld, curator and interim director, will leave MOCA; Babacar M'Bow will fulfill the duties of Museum Director.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES FAILED TO DEFEND ANY OF THEIR ASSERTED CLAIMS.   It has been interesting witnessing how the mainstream news sources reported this conflict. In the light of fairness, they, for the most part, reported the story from a cautious, neutral position. But built into that cautious, neutral position, is the underlining assumption that the Board of Trustee's case was the more meritorious of the two.  The City of North Miami and Mr. Babacar M' Bow were assumed to be disenfranchised and somewhat radical. 
BLACK ART IN AMERICA attended the symposium, sponsored by the Florida Africana Studies Consortium, “What Happens When Politics of Class and Culture Collide,” at the embattled Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). We were able to talk with BABACAR M' BOW before the decision was handed down.  The interview is very telling of the timber of the man, Mr. M'BOW.

MEET BABCAR M'BOW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MOCA

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