Rosa de la Cruz Bashes MOCA, Bass and PAMM: "Why Is It That Miami Museums Are Becoming Places Just For Parties?"

Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz
Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz

Rosa de la Cruz has been on a bit of a tear lately. On Thursday, she sent the Miami art world into a mid Basel tizzy with an interview claiming that the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) was moving.

Now she's not only doubling down on her remarks but also sounding off on the city's other art museums, including the just opened Perez Art Museum Miami and the Bass Museum in Miami Beach.

"Why is it that Miami museums are becoming places just for parties?" she told New Times. "It's embarrassing that in our city these things are happening."

De la Cruz began the interview by repeating her claim that MOCA -- the North Miami museum to which she and her husband Carlos have donated scores of contemporary artworks -- will soon be shuttered.

"We have been told -- and this is not a rumor -- that this museum is closing," she said. "And that MOCA is working to give everything to another museum, and it's the Bass museum."

As in other interviews, De la Cruz declined to name her source other than to say that "the person who told me knows what they are talking about."

MOCA interim director Alex Gartenfeld denied that the museum was closing but did not rule out a move or merger with the Bass or any other institution.

"There have been longstanding conversations on the part of MOCA's board of trustees on how to best serve our mission," he said. "There are ongoing internal discussions. They include lots of things including the scope of the collection and its location."

Gartenfeld emphatically denied other rumors, such as that MOCA had gambled on a $15 million North Miami bond issue to expand the museum -- it was rejected last year by voters -- or that it had overspent on its recent Tracy Emin "Angel Without You" exhibition.

"There is not a budget shortfall," Gartenfeld said. "And the Emin show was well budgeted, I can say with perfect certainty. It was an ambitious undertaking for the museum and you can see that in the show. In fact, the exhibition is a real tribute to the strength of the institution."

But De la Cruz brashly says the young interim director either doesn't know the whole story or isn't being honest.

"Alex is saying what they are telling him to say," she says. "I have nothing against Alex. But he just got here."


"The proof is in the pudding," De la Cruz continues. "[Former MOCA director] Bonnie [Clearwater] is not there anymore. Now there are a lot of conversations going on with the Bass in Miami Beach."

De la Cruz says she and her husband are outraged that MOCA might turn over their collection to the Bass.

"Do you think that people in New York who give to the Met want it to end up at another museum?" she scoffs. "It's embarrassing that in our city these things are happening."

"Carlos and I have a collection. Our collection is not a foundation. We don't take one penny of your tax dollars," De la Cruz says indignantly. "Every penny that I spend at that museum is my money. It's not the museum's money. But when [like MOCA] you are using other people's money, taxpayers' money, and you're a 501c3 [non profit corporation], you cannot treat it as a private museum. It's a public art museum!"

She says that MOCA's board of directors did not consult her, her husband, other donors, or artists who have given their works to the museum before allegedly making plans to move/merge with the Bass.

"This is a country club that makes decisions however they want to," she says of the board. But De la Cruz says the issue is much bigger than a single enraged art family.

"This is going to hurt Miami!" she says. "Not me. Not my husband. But it's going to hurt Miami."

De la Cruz says that MOCA's money problems stem from apathy in the surrounding community. "We all know that the Haitian community did not give the money to them in the referendum," she claims. "I have never seen any members of that community at the MOCA parties. And to tell you the truth, there are very Hispanics involved either."

"I haven't seen any commissioners of North Miami at the events," she continues. "I haven't seen the mayor of North Miami. So why would the city of North Miami give them money? Why not the rich people? This city is not a rich city. You know that. We need money for hospitals."

The grandmotherly De la Cruz then scolded other Miami museums and the city's art scene in general.

"My husband and I donated those works to the MOCA. M-O-C-A. Miami's contemporary art museum," she said. "The Bass was built for the Bass family. It has all those [Peter Paul] Rubens. Some of them real. And a room full of cats and mummies. It's an eclectic museum, is what I'd call it. But it's not a contemporary art museum.. They have that Egyptian room now. It is embarrassing, to tell you the truth."

She had equal disdain for the recently opened Perez Art Museum Miami.

"PAMM or MAM or whatever its called is not a contemporary art museum either," she said, before criticizing PAMM's much heralded new building. "The problem with museums in Miami is that they become country clubs. The Miami Herald recently wrote about PAMM: 'Oh, it'll be great because they'll have weddings and bat mitzvahs there.' But museums should not be used as banquet halls."

Despite Gartenfeld's denials, De la Cruz insists she's right about MOCA's future -- or lack thereof.

"Nobody opens their mouth in this town. People are so scared in this town about speaking up. What can do they do to me?" she says. "Let's see what happens in one month or two months with MOCA. I wish I were wrong. But I'm not."

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