Coetzee, who has directed the 102,000-square-foot institution since it opened in the fall of 2017, was suspended last Wednesday after museum trustees began an investigation into his professional conduct. City Press, a local South African publication, reported that he showed up to work Tuesday and his key card had been deactivated, and he resigned the next day, with only scant details emerging on the specific allegations prompting his departure. Coetzee’s workplace behavior was problematic from the beginning, according to the City Press report, and apparently the trustees of Zeitz MOCAA issued an apology to the curators working under him. There are few specific details about the nature of the transgressions, but anonymous sources told the publication they involved inappropriate comments.
The Cape Town institution is housed in a former grain silo complex on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, reimagined by British architect Thomas Heatherwick. Coetzee has worked with the museum’s founder, former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, since the early 2000s, according to a deep dive into the museum published in ARTnews. They met when Puma co-funded an exhibition at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, where Coetzee was working as a curator, and Zeitz soon poached him to work with puma.creative. Soon, he started brainstorming with Zeitz, who is German but has a ranch in Kenya, on how to build what could be called “Africa’s Tate Modern.” Azu Nwagbogu, an adjunct curator at Zeitz MOCAA, will take over as the interim director.