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Director of Zeitz Museum Quits Following Inquiry into Professional Conduct

Mark Coetzee, the director of Africa's largest contemporary art museum, resigns following investigation into abusive behaviour

Mark Coetzee. Courtesy: Zeitz MOCAA

Mark Coetzee. Courtesy: Zeitz MOCAA

Mark Coetzee. Courtesy: Zeitz MOCAA

Mark Coetzee has quit his post as chief curator and executive director of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa. Trustees of the museum, which has been lauded as ‘Africa’s answer to the Tate Modern’, have said in a statement that the decision followed ‘an inquiry into Mr. Coetzee’s professional conduct.’

A spokesperson for the museum told frieze: ‘Unfortunately due to the sensitive nature of the situation, we are unable to provide comment’. The official statement from the museum’s board of trustees was provided: ‘Mark Coetzee was on Wednesday 16 May, suspended from his duties as Executive Director and Chief Curator at Zeitz MOCAA. An inquiry into Mr Coetzee’s professional conduct has been initiated by the Trustees – Mr Coetzee has since tendered his resignation.’ 

While the museum has not clarified details surrounding Coetzee’s departure, local publication City Press have published a report citing misconduct. According to the article, assistant curators at the museum approached the board with evidence of abusive and inappopriate behaviour on Coetzee’s part, during one-on-one encounters with the director. According to the report, Coetzee turned up to work at the museum last week, only to find his access card had been blocked – he resigned shortly afterwards.

Initial reports had speculated that Coetzee’s resignation was linked to questions of conflict of interest. Artnews’s Alex Greenberger pointed to recent criticism of the museum from South African art professionals, drawing attention to Coetzee and the museum’s association with Scheryn Art Collection, a fund for collectors purchasing works – though the fund maintains that there has been no connection between it and the museum since a donation made in 2015. 

The museum opened in September 2017 in a building designed by Heatherwick Studio, with the claim to bring ‘African art to the forefront of the contemporary art world’. It boasts an atrium and extensive gallery space carved out of a former 1920s grain silo. With Coetzee gone, Azu Nwagbogu, formerly adjunct curator, has stepped up in the interim to replace him at the institution.

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