MADI...But Hurt, Really

Volf Roitman, the artist whose work is at the center of the federal lawsuit involving the MADI Museum and the Kilgore & Kilgore law firm about which we've been writing, sent an e-mail today detailing the birth, and possible death, of his creation in Uptown. In his missive, the Argentine-born, Florida-based artist details his friendship with Bill Masterson, one of firm's partners and the owner of the building that's being sold, and Masterson's wife Dorothy, who is the executive director of the MADI Museum.

Roitman, also reached by phone today at his home outside Tampa, says his wife, Shelley Goodman, and Dorothy Masterson attended Highland Park High School together in the 1960s. He says Shelley introduced him to the Mastersons 40 years ago in Paris and that they became "very good friends, and [Bill] was one of my best collectors for 12, 13 years." He says that in 1997, the Mastersons commissioned him to create a miniature model of a MADI building, which Roitman says was later exhibited in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. The model led to the real thing in 2000, when the Mastersons, Roitman's wife and the artist established the MADI Art World Foundation, whose main goal, Roitman writes, was "the establishment and operation of a non-profit museum and museum gallery to exhibit MADI art and educate the public with respect to its principles." Three years later, their museum opened in Dallas.

"The museum gave us the means to have privileged scope of action and influence in the development of the MADI movement," Roitman writes in the same partially broken English in which he speaks. "I worked on this project [every day for]14 months, all day long and adding lots of insomniac nights, for very little money, mainly because...this museum was to be the major accomplishment of my artist life...The MADI Museum is possibly a controversial building. Most of the great buildings of the world are or have been also highly controversial on their time. But there, at the angle of Bowen and Carlisle, in Dallas, Texas, the MADI Museum is the only of its kind in the entire world. And for this reason alone, I believe, it constitutes already an historical mark."

Roitman, reached by phone this afternoon, says he only found out a month ago, from friends and family living in Dallas, that the museum was for sale. As we reported this morning, Kilgore sent out a press release in which it said only that the relationship between the Mastersons and Roitman "soured" over the last year. Roitman says that's true: The couples have not spoken since May, when Roitman says the Mastersons cut off all conversation. All of their talking will now be conducted in front of attorneys. (Masterson is in mediation today and could not be reached for comment.)

"Now what does he want to prove, that I am not a good artist?" Roitman says. "Yes, we have had rough moments, conflicts, but like friends have. Every one of them would finish with us going to a restautant and drinking and laughing."

This one is unlikely to end in such convivial fashion. --Robert Wilonsky

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