Custody Battle Over Museum Location

NBC 6 has learned that the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami has filed a lawsuit to move to another location.

By Willard Shepard
|  Thursday, Apr 10, 2014  |  Updated 7:03 AM EDT
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Art Basel

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Art Basel

Sam Azar talks to some Miami Beach insiders about Art Basel and what it takes to put together one of the world's premier art shows.

Art Basel

Sam Azar talks to some Miami Beach insiders about Art Basel and what it takes to put together one of the world's premier art shows.
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NBC 6 has learned that the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami has filed a lawsuit to move to another location.

Meanwhile, North Miami city officials are saying the move violates a contract between the city and MOCA that promises the museum will to promote exhibits, special events, functions and activities for the benefit of the public until 2018.

"They want to move and we are willing to fight to keep them there," said North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau. "It's not going to happen today or anytime in the future."

MOCA’s lawsuit alleges the city hasn’t provided adequate security for visitors or properly maintained the building and is seeking damages. The museum's board of directors wants to take much of the work slated to appear inside MOCA and send it to various locations. 
The museum's curator says the board doesn't want to completely abandon North Miami, but says the city slows down the ability to change exhibits, and believes the art should be shared at other locations.

"We have discussed how we can present the collection on other locations as well," said Interim Director and Chief Curator Alex Gartenfeld. "We continue to have those discussions."

Some say the move would be crippling to North Miami businesses. Restaurant owners said they make a lot more money from tips when there is an art show at the museum.

"When these events occur we have a lot of customers who come in for dinner from next door," said Thamara G., who works at the nearby Moca Cafe.

Tondreau said the city has updated its downtown just outside the museum's steps with updated landscapes and lighting to draw more foot traffic. And the city plans to do more by adding wider streets and more outdoor cafes.

"The idea of the future being built around MOCA would dissipate," said strip mall owner Clark Reynolds about the lawsuit.

North Miami is a predominately Haitian and African American community, and Tondreau says it's a community that shouldn't have its artwork taken away.

"The community is changing," she said. "The population is changing. It is important for us to include everybody."

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