The Museum of Contemporary Art filed a legal complaint Monday against the City of North Miami and is suing for damages. In the complaint, MOCA claims the city has failed in its contractual duties to properly maintain and care for the institution legally under its care and, therefore, has "diminished the value of the Museum and its collection while hampering the institution's ability to achieve its mission."
Though the city has made plenty of noise against MOCA's plans to collaborate, and possibly move many of its collections to the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, MOCA alleges North Miami has done nothing to help the museum grow, such as forgoing to pay interim director Alex Gartenfeld, failing to provide adequate security, and refusing to repair critical maintenance issues.
MOCA, a publicly owned nonprofit institution, was opened in 1996 to inject the North Miami area with much-needed cultural stimuli, but the museum now intends to show that without proper management and necessary funding or assistance, the city has endangered the museum's collection, visitors, and employees.
All in all, the 23-page lawsuit lists eight complaints against the City of North Miami, including failure to pay the interim director; failure or refusal to repair the roof, air conditioning, and "other critical structural components"; failure to provide minimal security in and around the museum; failure or refusal to expand the museum or properly fund existing components; failure or refusal to promote the museum; improperly causing the museum to incur expenses for city and non-city events; and failing or refusing to properly maintain museum property grounds.
The lawsuit mentions MOCA's attempts to collaborate with other world-class museums, namely the Bass Museum, in an attempt to "avoid further damage to reputation and relevance of MOCA's permanent art collection." It's been rumored since last Art Basel in December that MOCA was planning a collaboration or move to the Bass Museum, rumors that were made official by a public announcement in mid-March. The city then held a council meeting in which such actions were loudly opposed.
The complaint names Mayor Lucie Tondreau as directly damaging the museum's reputation and says her claim that the city must oversee such partnerships between MOCA and the Bass is false. Mayor Tondreau said the city owns the MOCA collection, a statement disputed in the lawsuit as well.
The complaint calls the city meeting in March a "public spectacle" and states the city is now trying to terminate some or all of MOCA's acting board members in a "strategic attempt to destroy any alliance between MOCA and the Bass Museum, and to keep MOCA in North Miami."
MOCA's interim director Alex Gartenfeld.
Photo by Stian Roenning
MOCA and its board charge the city with a breach of contract and charge the mayor, city manager, and city council with civil conspiracy. They're seeking multiple counts of injunctive and declaratory relief and have accused the mayor of defamation.
The complaint ends with a statement made by MOCA's legal representative, Alan Kluger:
"As a direct and proximate result of the City's aforementioned breaches of the Agreement, along with the City's other recent wrongful acts, the Board is suffering and will continue to suffer damages and irreparable harm, including but not limited to damage to, diminishment and jeopardy of the reputation, integrity, and value of the Board's permanent collection of art. Accordingly, the City is hereby notified that the Board reserves all rights, remedies, and protections under the Agreement and Florida law generally.
"To be clear," the statement continues, "although the Board is desirous of amicably resolving this situation, the Board is prepared to initiate the appropriate litigation without further delay if necessary to protest its rights and interests."
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