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MOCA DC, the art gallery known for its erotic art and occasional nude parties, has officially left its space in Georgetown’s Canal Square. The move took place two weeks ago, according to gallery owner David Quammen.
The gallery’s exit follows several tumultuous years. Quammen received an eviction notice from RB Properties, the owner of the property, in June 2010, but it was rescinded the following month after Quammen renegotiated the lease. Conditions in the space quickly deteriorated, to hear Quammen tell it—in a lawsuit, he says renovations to the parking garage below the gallery resulted in fumes and dust entering the gallery shortly after he signed the lease in 2010. In order to stay afloat, MOCA made an agreement with Uncork’d Art, a painting-party business with which it had shared its storefront beginning in January 2012; starting in January, Uncork’d paid $1,625 and MOCA DC paid $1,000 each month. The agreement fell apart this summer, and Quammen decided to leave the space and D.C. He’s now based in Baltimore. Calls to R B Properties and its lawyer were not immediately returned, but a listing on the company’s website shows that the suite formerly occupied by MOCA DC is available for rent. (Uncork’d still uses the storefront regularly, but also holds events elsewhere.)
MOCA DC has resided in the Canal Square since 1992, and Quammen has led it since taking over for founder Michael Clark in 2005. By then, the gallery, always focused on representational painting, began to emphasize nudes, in part due to the gallery’s partnership with the Figure Models Guild, an organization founded by Quammen in 2002 that connects artists with nude models. Everything from childbirth to nude photos of Playboy models has graced the gallery’s walls. The guild, which held monthly training sessions for models at the gallery, will now have to look elsewhere for space.
The gallery also became known for its wild opening events featuring burlesque performances and live nude statues in its back room. When one amateur performer left the gallery for the courtyard wearing little more than pasties, neighbors complained to the property owners.
By his measure, Quammen believes R B Properties’ treatment of the space has negatively affected his health. Quammen believes breathing in exhaust fumes from the properties contributed to his development pulmonary fibrosis. He has filed a $3 million lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against the company. (See the full text of the complaint below.)
Quammen has no intention of retiring, however. “I’m 74 and I don’t see any near time when I’ll really want to quit doing things,” he says. He hopes to start an online version of MOCA in January or February. “MOCA is worth salvaging,” he says. “I think an online version is the best.”
Clark and Quammen will officially bid adieu to MOCA DC at a typically wild celebration in Adams Morgan this Saturday. Interested parties can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery