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Mark Coetzee. Photo: Zeitz MOCAA.

Zeitz Museum Director Resigns Following Inquiry Into His Professional Conduct

Mark Coetzee, the executive director and chief curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, stepped down from his position after the institution’s trustees launched an inquiry into his professional conduct. Azu Nwagbogu, the curator at large at the museum’s Roger Ballen Center for Photography, will assume his responsibilities.

According to Matthew Blackmen, the former editor of ArtThrob, Coetzee refused to respond to questions about the institutional practices at Zeitz MOCAA following concerns over alleged abuses of power.

In 2015, Blackmen wrote an open letter to Coetzee and Jochen Zeitz, the German collector and ex-Puma executive who cofounded the museum, criticizing its acquisitions policies, the focus of its collection, its replication of Western museum practices, and a potential conflict of interest between the museum’s executives and the people managing the Scheryn Art Fund, which made a major contribution to the institution’s endowment.

“I do not think that these questions and concerns are irresolvable—they are not,” Blackmen wrote. “They can be addressed and the museum could very well prove to be the project that many of us in the art world hope that it will be—that is to say a rival to many of the great museums around the world.”

It is unclear if any of the issues raised in Blackmen’s letter were related to the investigation into Coetzee’s leadership. Prior to taking over the helm of the museum, which opened at the V&A Waterfront in September of last year, Coetzee was director of the Miami-based Rubell Family Collection.

[Update:]

On May 20, the South African paper City Press, reported that staff at the museum accused Coetzee of inappropriate and abusive behavior at a recent board meeting. The board declined the publication’s request for comment and provided the following statement: “Given the nature of the inquiry and the process to be followed which is prescribed by SA labour law, we believe that it would be inappropriate for us to provide further details or comment on rumour or speculation.”

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