The Battle Over MOCA North Miami Has Ended

The collection will be divided between MOCA and the ICA.

North Miami Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: via Miami Art Scene.
North Miami Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: via Miami Art Scene.

The city of North Miami and the former board of North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art have finally settled their ongoing legal battle.

After months of mediation (see “The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami Sues City For Breach of Contract” and “Feud Between North Miami and Its Contemporary Art Museum Escalates“), the museum and the city that housed it have finally reached an agreement, releasing a joint statement announcing the details of the deal, reports the Miami Herald. The institution’s assets will be divided between the city and the former board members, who in August decamped to Miami’s Design District and set up shop under a new name, the Institute of Contemporary Art (see “MOCA North Miami Closes in Controversy“).

One of the most controversial issues in the acrimonious split was the fate of MOCA North Miami’s 600-work permanent collection. Many of the museum’s donors, some of whom were also board members, argued that they had entrusted the artwork to the institution, not the municipality (see “MOCA North Miami Donors: ‘Art is for Museum, Not for City’“). Nevertheless, under the settlement, North Miami will keep a majority of the art, as well as $1 million in grant funds and the MOCA name. The remainder of the collection will go to the ICA.

The current city-appointed MOCA director Babacar M’Bow, who controversially attempted to seize power over the objections of the museum board (see “MOCA North Miami Rejects City-Nominated Director” and “Racist Taunts Escalate MOCA North Miami Feud“), now has a consolidated leadership role at MOCA.

“Our focus is that MOCA shall remain an internationally recognized force in contemporary art while continuing to have a profound impact in our community,” said acting mayor Philippe Bien-Aime in a joint statement. ICA Miami co-chair Irma Braman added, “We are grateful to the North Miami city council for their collaborative efforts and dedication to achieving an amicable resolution. It is our goal that the agreement will yield two great institutions in the Miami region.”

The new ICA, which is temporarily housed rent-free at the Moore Building and is under the helm of interim director Suzanne Weaver (see “Suzanne Weaver Will Lead Miami’s New Contemporary Art Museum“), will offer free admission when it opens its doors for the first time during Art Basel in Miami Beach. During the fair, the ICA will present Pedro Reyes’ “Sanatorium” and Andra Ursuta’s “As I Lay Drying” (see “ICA Miami Will Open with Pedro Reyes and Andra Ursuta“).

The MOCA board’s departure left a bit of a vacuum at the city-owned building, but M’Bow, with a steering committee of volunteers, has done his best to keep the operation afloat. During ABMB, the museum will present “Shifting the Paradigm,” an exhibition by Nigerian painter George Edozie.


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