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

Categories: Art

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Photo by Ivon David Rojas
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.

A source with knowledge of the court-ordered mediation between the museum board and the city told New Times that an agreement was reached yesterday after 22 hours of deliberation extending over two days.

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.

See also: At MOCA North Miami, a Battle Over Race

Other points in the agreement, according to the source, include:

  • 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.
  • MOCA will officially remain the name of the North Miami museum.
  • A new board will be constituted to carry on the duty of the departing trustees.
  • Alex Gartenfeld, curator and interim director, will leave MOCA; Babacar M'Bow will fulfill the duties of museum director.

The agreement will be signed by the judge and both opposing parties within the next several weeks, the source reports.

See also: MOCA's High-Profile Donors May Reclaim Their Art From North Miami

The bad blood between museum honchos and city leaders began simmering in 2012 when taxpayers torpedoed a $15 million expansion bill in the cash-strapped working-class city.

It boiled over when MOCA's board filed a breach of contract suit against North Miami this past April and the quarrel between both parties turned into a cultural version of Tong warfare soon after that.

Since then, MOCA's board rejected Babacar M'Bow -- who was appointed by North Miami city officials as the museum's new director -- citing that M'Bow failed to comply with a background check even though he was vetted by North Miami and passed the city's drug and background checks.

After MOCA's trustees unceremoniously discarded M'Bow as a candidate, the museum board filed a motion in its lawsuit against the city the first week of June stating that art collectors who gave art to MOCA gifted those donations to the institution and not to North Miami. That filing was signed by auto tycoon Norman Braman and his wife, Irma Braman, who co-chairs MOCA's board.

Last month, MOCA suffered yet another blow to its credibility when the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation withdrew a $5 million grant endowed to the museum in 2007 in the wake of the acrimonious dispute.

As for the outgoing board's desire to merge with the Bass Museum of Art, it appears those plans have been dropped. New Times' source says members of the outgoing board have formed a new nonprofit they're calling "NOCI"; it remains unclear if that's an acronym and, if so, what it stands for. A Google search reveals only that noci is the Italian word for "walnut."

UPDATE: SquiresBenson, P.L., the law firm representing the City of North Miami in the dispute, contacted New Times with the following statement in response to our source's allegations:

The good news today is that, as a result of the Court-ordered Mediation, the parties have come together, and are diligently working to resolve the dispute. Everyone is sincerely looking forward to an amicable, mutually beneficial resolution; and looking forward to working jointly in the future.

Ms. [Olivia S.] Benson and Mr. [Gilbert K.] Squires, the attorneys who lead the Mediation team on behalf of the City of North Miami, indicate the terms of the settlement agreement as listed in the earlier blog do not reflect the parties' discussions. After consulting with counsel for the Plaintiff, they agreed to update New Times for everyone's benefit.

The Parties are earnestly working on the terms of an agreement, and will maintain the confidentiality of those discussions, and any agreement.

Representatives of SquiresBenson declined to elaborate on which of the terms of settlement described in this story its lawyers consider inaccurate.

Send your story tips to Cultist at cultist@miaminewtimes.com.

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Museum of Contemporary Art

770 NE 125th St., North Miami, FL

Category: General


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16 comments
avonlates1
avonlates1

Can we stop making this sad conflict a story about race? It's really about money and power.A few rich people want to control their donations. They are out of touch with a changing multi-cultural world. They are fighting to preserve their privileged tax deductions. GREED has blinded them to the fact that they have damaged the careers and reputations of many people. I

Familia Ramirez
Familia Ramirez

^^^^ don't know many hoods.. that have a school of culinary arts and a yacht bay( Keystone). City of North Miami is not N.W. dade. Learn the difference. Get out of Kendall and Hialeah.

sandy_lazzar
sandy_lazzar

funny how no one mentions Bonnie Clearwater. Who left without giving proper notice and abandoned her commitment to MOCA and the neighborhood after 15 years. I wonder if she were Senegalese or Haitian would she be as forgive. 

orleans
orleans topcommenter

" 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."

This makes no sense. So who would keep the artworks? And whose are the artworks anyway?

Hali Neal
Hali Neal

North Miami is hardly "the hood", Carl

Cultist
Cultist

Lawyers for the City of North Miami have responded to our report. Check out the updated story at the link above.

stephanie.kienzle
stephanie.kienzle

New Times' source says members of the outgoing board have formed a new nonprofit they're calling "NOCI"; it remains unclear if that's an acronym and, if so, what it stands for. A Google search reveals only that noci is the Italian word for "walnut."

Now THAT was priceless!

YoNoSe
YoNoSe

Lol ok city of north miami. let's see how long it is before you let this place fall into disrepair and sit empty. morons. 

Michael Cimino
Michael Cimino

This is why miami cant have nice things...except for clubs and leased BMWs

anglin1313
anglin1313

correction, this is why the city of "North Miami" can't have nice things. Miami has  brand new Pamm, Bass museum, and those there are pretty nice things, as far as art and culture goes.

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