The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in North Miami has suffered another major setback in its efforts to re-establish itself as a credible institution after years of battles between its leadership and the city. On 31 December, Babacar M’Bow, the director appointed by the city in April 2014, was fired following his suspension over claims of sexual harassment made by members of staff at the museum. (He denies all the claims.)
M’Bow, who previously ran a gallery in Miami’s Little Haiti neighbourhood, was supposed to lead the museum to a bright new future and repair links with the local community after a vicious dispute between the institution’s former board and the city of North Miami, which owns the MoCA building. The battle ended in August 2014, when the museum’s trustees decamped to the Design District to found a new institution, the Institute of Contemporary Art, taking much of MoCA’s collection with them.
Another blow came last year when the former mayor of North Miami, Lucie Tondreau, who oversaw the final stages of the dispute, was arrested for her role in an $11m mortgage fraud scam. (She is now serving a prison sentence of five years and five months.) Natasha Colebrook-Williams, the city’s chief of staff, is serving as MoCA’s interim director.
The city is conducting a national search for a new director, in conjunction with the museum’s board. The plan is to prioritise candidates with strong art world ties. “We want to be back on that international scene,” says Arthur Sorey, the interim city manager of North Miami. He praises M’Bow for engaging the local community, but says that the city is now looking for a director “who can do the fundraising and put on shows”. “We’re not what MoCA was three years ago, and we are trying to reach those standards,” he says.