The Last Word on MADI. For Now.

For those who've been riveted by our serialized tales of federal lawsuits and busted-up friendships at the MADI Museum, here's the last word on the subject--at least till Monday. And it comes from one of the central figures in the dispute over artist Volf Roitman's installation outside the building, which houses not only the museum but also the Kilgore & Kilgore law firm and its legal center. Bill Masterson, who called the Observer this afternoon, is a partner in the firm and owner of the building at Carlisle and Bowen, and he and his wife Dorothy are responsible for both bringing in Roitman many years ago and then booting him out in the spring of 2005--over a dispute concerning the MADI Museum's Web site, among other things. Their falling-out eventually led them to the federal courthouse in downtown Dallas, where Roitman says Masterson's trying to sell the building and destroy the art. Masterson says that's not true.

According to Masterson, he not only wants to keep Roitman's artwork intact, but he also wants to expand the MADI Museum. He says the gallery, which opened to much fanfare in 2003, is simply not big enough to house the burgeoning collection of MADI art Masterson began collecting decades ago. Many pieces are sitting in warehouses, he insists, wonting for wall space. He would also like to build a proper museum with an auditorium and other facilities that would make it more user-friendly; as it sits now, it's just a beautiful lobby to a law firm, more or less. He also says the building, which has been listed since October with the Trammell Crow Co., has not been bought, nor are any takers at the moment who would come in and tear down the 1970s building to make room for condos.

"Right now, everyone's waiting to see how the condos in this area sell, so it could be several years before anything happens," Masterson says. "There's a vacant tract across from us, on the Katy Trail, and another on Carlisle and Cedar Springs, which would be developed before ours...At some point it's logical to assume there will be some development here, but even if we had a deal, we would have a lease-back agreement so we could have time to relocate the museum and law firm." Masterson says the building was put on the market only because the area of Uptown in which the firm sits is zoned for 24-story condos, which would "swallow" the museum and law firm.

Roitman doesn't know any of this, most likely, because he and Masterson stopped talking in May 2005, when the MADI Museum's board of directors tried to get the Argentine-born, Florida-based artist to surrender his control of the museum's Web site. Masterson thought Roitman's version of the site, which can be found here, was less about the gallery and more abotu the artist. Masterson says it contained no information about current exhibitions or children's workshops or other museum-sponsored events; a new site, found here, was created to rectify the situation, which Masterson says had elicited "complaints from people who said they didn't know what was going on" at the MADI. Roitman, who was being paid a consultant's fee for maintaining the site, refused to allow local control of the site. "Since then, we won't have anything to do with him and ceased all payments to him, which caused a problem," Masterson says. "On the other hand he hasn't done any work since then."

Yesterday, Roitman acknowledged that he and the Mastersons have had numerous disagreements in the past, but always ones that ended with a nice meal and a toast. Not this time, says Masterson, who will give his deposition in the federal lawsuit in two weeks--right after Roitman comes to Dallas to give his in a legal battle that will likely stretch into next year.

"We've had disagreements constantly," Masterson says. "To give you one of many examples, while we were putting the panels up, he said, 'I have to have more panels on the building.' I said, 'No, this is an adequate presentation that this is a MADI building.' So he said, 'Well, if you don't do this, I am not going to sign the building.' I said, 'Well, I've never heard of anyone signing a building.' The guy's just very difficult to get along with." Asked if there's a possibility this may end in a settlement of some kind, or with some kind of friendly arrangement accorded their years of friendship, Masterson is absolute on the subject: "There is," he says, "absolutely no chance." --Robert Wilonsky

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