North Miami - NMB

MOCA board, North Miami working toward settlement

After months of public battles that included a breach-of-contract lawsuit and allegations of a “modern-day art heist,” the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and its municipal landlord are privately working toward a settlement.

Following two days of mediation, both sides said they are “working diligently toward resolving the matter.”

Neither the city nor the board would confirm a report published Wednesday morning in the Miami New Times claiming that an agreement had been reached.

“We’ve agreed that we’re going to figure something out, but there’s no settlement at the moment,” said attorney Olivia Benson, whose firm SquiresBenson is representing the city in the mediation process.

Citing a confidential source, the New Times says that under the agreement, the current board of trustees would leave the institution with 150 key pieces from the well regarded collection. MOCA’s website says the permanent collection includes about 600 works.

The institution would continue to be called the Museum of Contemporary Art, the New Times reported. Babacar M’Bow, the city-appointed director who was rejected by the board, would stay at the museum in that role and interim director Alex Gartenfeld would depart.

Later Wednesday, the publication updated its story online to include a statement from SquiresBenson, which said in part that terms of the agreement in the story “do not reflect the parties’ discussions.” The law firm did not specify which terms it was referring to.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Benson addressed one item in the New Times piece, which said that both parties would pay MOCA half of the appraised value of the departing art.

“There’s nothing anywhere in writing that this person is going to pay this or do that,” she said.

Both sides said they looked forward to working together in the future.

“During this time period, both sides have agreed that all discussions and agreements will be confidential until a resolution is finalized,” North Miami spokeswoman Pam Solomon said in a statement. The board’s statement was nearly identical.

Solomon said the process is expected to unfold over the next several weeks.

Tensions between the museum’s board and the city started building in December, when rumors emerged that the board had been in talks with the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach to move the collection there.

City Council members ordered staffers in March to do “whatever is necessary” to keep the museum in North Miami; the following month, MOCA’s board filed suit alleging that the city was in breach of contract for failing to maintain, support and secure the museum.