Resignation of Zeitz Museum curator 'abusing his powers' welcomed

By Dominic Adriaanse Time of article published May 21, 2018

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Cape Town - Art critic Matthew Blackman has welcomed the resignation of the executive director and chief curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), Mark Coetzee.

Coetzee resigned last week following an announcement of his suspension by the museum after an inquiry into his professional conduct was opened by the trustees.

Adjunct curator Azu Nwagbogu has been asked to assume the role.

Blackman, a freelance writer for a contemporary visual arts publication, had previously raised concerns about the Zeitz MOCAA, writing an open letter criticising the museum and Coetzee.

He said that rumours had circulated within the art fraternity that Coetzee was “abusing his powers”.

“His resignation is suspicious in the least. Those unwilling to go public told me they spoke of their unhappiness. How he (Coetzee) would make comments about their sexuality, the way they dressed and (was)creating an abusive working environment. 

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa Picture: Cindy Waxa/ANA

"They said that it was mainly towards young curators, who had all signed non-disclosure agreements stopping them from speaking out,” said Blackman.

Blackman said he hoped that the museum trustees would take on some accountability, adding that the situation had been going on for a while.

Approached for comment, Zeitz MOCAA spokesperson Zainab Slemang van Rijmenant said: “Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of the situation, at this stage we are unable to provide any further information other than the statement released by our board of trustees.”

In their statement, the trustees said: “Following the initiation of an inquiry into Mark Coetzee’s professional conduct, the Trustees of Zeitz MOCAA suspended Coetzee from his duties as executive director and chief curator of the museum.

‘‘Coetzee has since tendered his resignation.

“Zeitz MOCAA, which opened its doors to the public in September 2017, promised to offer a platform for the exhibition of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora - despite some criticism about the museum’s choice in leadership and funding.

“The reasons for Coetzee’s suspension and subsequent resignation have not yet been established.”

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Cape Times

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