MoCCA Festival 2010

MoCCA Festival 2010 (photo by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid)

This week, a lesser-known MoCCA — not LA MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) or New York’s MOCA, aka the Museum of Chinese in America — abruptly closed its doors. MoCCA stands for the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, which until Monday was housed in suite 401 at 594 Broadway, in Nolita.

The move was announced quite suddenly, with a short press release stating that the museum would “be closing its physical location effective immediately.” Miami Makeover, a collaborative exhibition by artists Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Dominique Sapel that opened in mid-June, had been scheduled “through summer 2012,” according to a previous release, but in the end stayed up only for a month.

“We’re planning to reopen in a different format, and we’re working to really establish how that’s going to play out,” Ellen Abramowitz, MoCCA’s chairman and president, told Hyperallergic. “We decided to leave the space; we were not evicted from the space. This was really determined by financial reasons,” Abramowitz said. She explained that the museum’s lease was up for renewal, and although the rent was not raised substantially — “we’ve had a landlord that worked with us from the very beginning; we’re still paying below market rent for our space” — she looked at the organization’s finances and decided it couldn’t renew.

Anyone who’s visited MoCCA knows that its home was very small, and in a way, the organization’s reach and influence (events, panels, the MoCCA Festival) have been disproportionate with the size of its physical space. “Despite the occasional controversy, MoCCA really has become a local institution over the last 10 years,” Comics Beat editor-in-chief Heidi MacDonald told us. This contradiction has perhaps exacerbated the typical frustrations of museum fundraising. As Abramowitz said:

The outpouring of the press has just been unbelievable, and from around the world, the emails that I’ve received. … It’s really nice to hear, but it’s also sad to hear. Now, all of a sudden, everyone’s like, ‘Oh no!’ And we’ve been fundraising and trying for such a long time to get support. I know it’s very, very difficult in this industry and this economy to get support. We have one employee. We have big dreams, we have plenty of ideas … and it’s all limited and constrained by budgets.

Abramowitz couldn’t say when or where or in what form the museum will reopen but plans to make an announcement at the end of this month.

In other New York museum news, the Dahesh Museum, which is devoted to 19th- and 20th-century academic European art, has moved its gift shop and offices from Midtown down to 145 Sixth Avenue, in Hudson Square. The museum is currently in the midst of a search for a permanent home, in the meantime creating traveling exhibitions and loaning out works. Amira Zahid, one of the museum’s founding trustees, said in a press release, “After 17 years in midtown, we are more than ready to join the movement downtown.” Um, they’re maybe a little late for the “movement dowtown” — but better late than never!

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...