After a highly anticipated opening in September 2017, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) is tarnished by a scandal. Indeed, Executive Director and Chief Curator Mark Coetzee has been suspended. As some question his ties with private institutions and collectors, the reasons of such a decision remain unclear.
The African answer to the Tate Modern
On September 22nd 2017 opened one of the main new Contemporary Art Institutions of the African continent. Installed in a former gain silo reshaped by British Architect Thomas Heatherwick, the museum was then presented as the biggest African Contemporary Art museum in the continent. Art-Trope dedicated an article about its story as well as its inaugural exhibition. The museum hosts the private collection of billionaire Jochen Zeitz who rectified Puma’s situation. In order to start the artistic programming, the exhibition “All Things Being Equal…” dealt with the questions of democratic and geopolitical representation. The title came from Artist Hank Willis’ Artwork. For the Executive Director and Chief Curator Mark Coetzee, the idea was to represent Africa and its Diasporas through different media.
Ascension and fall of Mark Coetzee
Mark Coetzee was approached to be the head of the Zeitz MOCAA in 2013. Prior to taking up his position, he was the Program Director of PumaVision and chief curator of Puma.Creative. Among his professional experiences, Mark Coetzee was also the Director of the Rubell Family Collection in Miami and the Adjunct Curator of the Palm Springs Arts Museum. The first exhibition he organized for the Zeitz MOCAA had a very positive feedback from the international press. However, the museum opening has also been followed by a series of negative comments. Indeed, the links between real estate corporations were first pointed out. Secondly, the fact that the majority of the Executive team is white in a country marked by the Apartheid was also a point that was denounced by several observers.
A resignation full of mysteries
The museum’s Trustees stated that Mark Coetzee « resigned » by the exact circumstances that led him to do so remain mysterious. “An inquiry into Mark Coetzee’s professional conduct has been initiated” indicated the museum’s Board. Azu Nwagbodu, former Adjunct Curator will fill the position in. In 2015, ArThrob published an open letter written by Matthew Blackman to the Museum’s Director and Founder. The letter expressed concerns about donations coming from the Scheryn Art Fund, a private collection of African Art, to the Zeitz endowment. “Having personally been in meetings with the Scheryn Fund and having acted on one occasion as an advisor to the Fund, I am extremely worried about the closeness of the relationship of the Fund to the ZMOCAA and Mr. Coetzee and what this will mean for the industry” explained Matthew Blackman. Even though Scheryn Art Collection Manager Brett Scott publically refuted this affirmation, the reasons of Mark Coetzee’s “resignation” remain mysterious.
Read our article about the 9000 Artworks donation from the former Corcoran Gallery of Art to American University here.