Over 150 artists, artwork employees, and activist teams are calling on the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York to separate itself from its chairman, billionaire Leon Black. Michael Rakowitz, Xaviera Simmons, Hito Steyrel, Nan Goldin, MoMA Divest, and (*150*) This Place are among the many many artwork world figures urging Black’s elimination over his hyperlinks to convicted intercourse offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Last week, Black introduced his plans to step down as CEO of his personal fairness agency Apollo Global Management after an unbiased report discovered that he paid Epstein $158 million in charges between 2012 and 2017. The report, carried out by the legislation agency Dechert, discovered no proof that Black had participated in Epstein’s felony conduct, however revealed the extent of the shut monetary ties between the 2. According to the report, Epstein suggested Black on belief and property planning, tax points, and issues associated to the billionaire’s huge artwork assortment. Epstein’s providers saved Black round $2 billion in taxes, the report says.
Meanwhile, Black continues to function the chairman of MoMA’s board of trustees, a task he assumed in 2018, regardless of mounting calls for his elimination. The New York Times reported that in an e mail to MoMA trustees final week, Black confirmed no signal of stepping down, telling his colleagues: “I look forward to seeing you at our February board meeting.”
Now, artists are amping up strain on the New York museum, with a collection of statements offered to Hyperallergic by main artists and artwork teams urging MoMA to deal with Black’s presence on its board. (Each of the 4 statements is reproduced, in full, on the closing of this text.)
“We, as artists and art workers, support the removal of Leon Black from the board of MoMA for reasons that have already been stated by many others,” says one assertion signed by 157 artists and artwork employees. “However, this should be considered the bare minimum.”
Signatories embrace Nicole Eisenman, Andrea Fraser, Baseera Khan, Noah Fischer, Paddy Johnson, William Powhida, Guerrilla Girls, the Dismantle NOMA collective, and Artists For Workers. The record additionally contains Iraqi artists Ali Eyal and Ali Yass, who participated within the 2019-2020 MoMA PS1 exhibition Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011.
“Beyond [Black’s] removal, we must think seriously about a collective exit from art’s imbrication in toxic philanthropy and structures of oppression, so that we don’t have to have the same conversations over and over, one board member at a time,” the assertion continues. It concludes:
This considering can solely catalyze motion as soon as we state plainly: We don’t want this cash. Museums and different arts establishments should pursue various fashions, cooperative constructions, Land Back initiatives, reparations, and extra concepts that represent an abolitionist strategy towards the humanities and humanities patronage, in order that they align with the egalitarian ideas that drew us to artwork within the first place.
The group MoMA Divest, which crashed a VIP preview at MoMA in 2019 earlier than it reopened its refurbished galleries to demand jail divestment and staged a protest at MoMA PS1 on the closing day of Theater of Operations, offered Hyperallergic with a separate assertion that addresses Black’s different enterprise dealings, which embrace possession of Constellis (previously Blackwater), a personal army firm that operated in Iraq.
“Recent confirmations of MoMA Board of Trustees Chair Leon Black’s deep financial and personal connections to Jeffrey Epstein underline the problems that MoMA and other major museum boards face and have failed to reckon with in any meaningful way,” MoMA Divest’s assertion reads. “We note that Leon Black’s corruption extends far as his ‘investment’ firm is also the owner of Constellis, formerly known as Blackwater, a private military firm which was banned from operating in Iraq after its staff were charged with war crimes (when MoMA Divest peacefully protested this last year in solidarity with exhibiting artist Ali Yass, PS1 responded by calling NYPD). Those war criminals were part of the recent spate of pardons by Trump.”
The group continues with criticism of different billionaires on MoMA’s board:
Leon Black just isn’t an anomaly. Five MoMA board members — [Steven] Tananbaum, [Glenn] Dubin, [Steven] Cohen, [Leon] Black, [Larry] Fink — have been recognized and focused by totally different teams during the last 12 months for their ties to conflict, racist jail and border enforcement methods, vulture fund exploitation, gentrification and displacement of the poor, extractivism and environmental degradation, and patriarchal types of violence. Board members even have ties and donate to the NYPD Police Foundation.
In brief, the rot is on the core of the establishment, which incorporates PS1. MoMA/PS1 administrators and directors have quietly taken the soiled cash within the identify of artwork and made empty curatorial gestures in the direction of political points.
“Nothing short of a major reconstitution of the board, a change of directors, a public reckoning, and a reimagining of the institutional and curatorial mission of the museum is acceptable,” the group provides.
In a press release titled “Fuck MoMA. An Open Call to Action,” activist group (*150*) This Place writes: “We are tired of the same shit making news over and over. It has become a banal routine. One place after another. Another institution, another oligarch artwashing their death-dealing profits, with womxn bearing the brunt of it all. This is not a PR crisis, or just a matter of toxic philanthropy. MoMA is a frontline of gendered and racialized class war, and we all have a responsibility to act.”
The group beforehand led months-long protests towards the Whitney Museum’s vice-chair Warren Kanders relating to his possession of a tear fuel producer. In the face of public strain, Kanders resigned from his put up on the Whitney board in the summertime of 2019, and his firm has since introduced it can exit the tear fuel commerce.
“Letters, pleas, and backroom deals are not enough,” DTP continues. “After the removal of Kanders from the Whitney, after the George Floyd rebellion, after the open declaration of war by Fascists seeking to salvage white heteropatriarchal rule, we must do and demand more.”
“Board members are not the problem,” The activists add. “They only make the problem visible. MoMA in its entirety is the problem. Perhaps it’s time to abolish MoMA.”
In a separate assertion despatched to Hyperallergic, artist Hito Steyerl wrote: “Let’s face it: by commissioning an art lubricated 2bio USD tax avoidance scheme from suspected pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, chairman of the board Leon Black created a major reputational disaster for MoMA.”
Responding to Dechert LLP’s report, which clears Black of any wrongdoing, Steyerl wrote: “The description of [Black’s] activities positively sounds like a caricature of QAnon´s most delusional fairy tales about elite cabals — except that the NYT vouches for its facticity. The result: at present parts of MoMA’s board come across like an unhinged and depraved version of Marie Antoinette’s feudal court.”
Steyerl continued with ideas in regards to the wider implications of MoMA’s continued silence, writing:
The message despatched by the museum is devastating. Apparently, it appears to care much less about its reputational harm than Black’s personal firm which compelled him to go away its put up as CEO. This is a panicked and shortsighted response to say the least.
The harm created not solely for MoMA however for the artwork world usually will likely affect societies’ views on artwork for years to come back. There are tragic historic precedents. Similar — if invented — tales have been utilized by 20es and early 30es right-wingers in Germany to pit components of the inhabitants not solely towards fashionable artwork however extra importantly additionally towards totally different minorities, with well-known and disastrous penalties. The unhappy fact is: up to date reactionaries will equally try to implicate the entire artwork world into Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes by affiliation – if institutional accountability retains failing, or is lacking altogether.
What’s extra: the rightwing response will likely be a particular blowback for these minority artists, whose work the museum had simply begun to lastly rescue from structural institutional neglect. At this level although these our bodies of labor sadly look as in the event that they have been being instrumentalized by the museum as beauty distractions to divert from its spectacular failure in defending its personal dignity.
This impotence dangers contaminating not solely the work of artists, however the artwork world as a complete. In a time when individuals worldwide are struggling economically, mentally, and bodily, pursuits like artwork assisted tax avoidance begin showing for what they’re: excesses of entitlement and privilege, undermining vital providers like Medicare, depriving well being employees of desperately wanted assets to maintain individuals alive.
MoMA sadly doesn’t appear to care.
MoMA has not responded to Hyperallergic’ a number of requests for remark.
* * *
Collective Statement Signed by 157 artists, curators, and artwork employees
We, as artists and artwork employees, assist the elimination of Leon Black from the board of MoMA for causes which have already been said by many others. However, this needs to be thought-about the naked minimal. Beyond his elimination, we should assume critically a couple of collective exit from artwork’s imbrication in poisonous philanthropy and constructions of oppression, in order that we don’t need to have the identical conversations again and again, one board member at a time. This considering can solely catalyze motion as soon as we state plainly: We don’t want this cash. Museums and different arts establishments should pursue various fashions, cooperative constructions, Land Back initiatives, reparations, and extra concepts that represent an abolitionist strategy towards the humanities and humanities patronage, in order that they align with the egalitarian ideas that drew us to artwork within the first place.
Alberto Garcia Rodriguez
Amanda Matles, Pratt Institute
Anna Sew Hoy
Andrew Weiner, NYU
Art and Labor Podcast
Art Handlers Alliance
Artists For Workers
Clarinda Mac Low
Denisse Andrade, Pratt Institute
Eric Golo Stone
Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung
Frank J. Stockton
Jennifer M. Williams
Johnson Study Group
Juliana Cerqueira Leite
Katie Grace McGowan, Detroit, MI.
Lia Gangitano, PARTICIPANT INC
Lincoln Tobier, Los Angeles
Lluis Alexandre Casanovas Blanco
Manolis D. Lemos
María Verónica San Martín
Mikeeh Zwirner (Institute of Museums Against All Fucked Up Social Systems)
Nick Wylie, Public Media Institute
Patrick Carlin Mohundro
Peter Rostovsky, artist, author, educator.
Ramón Miranda Beltrán
Sara Grace Powell
Taehee Whang (Hyperlink Press)
Teresa Ross Tellechea
the Dismantle NOMA collective
Todd Ayoung, Pratt Institute
V. M. McEwen
Recent confirmations of MoMA Board of Trustees Chair Leon Black’s deep monetary and private connections to Jeffrey Epstein underline the issues that MoMA and different main museum boards face and have did not reckon with in any significant approach. We notice that Leon Black’s corruption extends far as his “investment” agency can be the proprietor of Constellis, previously often known as Blackwater, a personal army agency which was banned from working in Iraq after its workers have been charged with conflict crimes (when MoMA Divest peacefully protested this final 12 months in solidarity with exhibiting artist Ali Yass, PS1 responded by calling NYPD). Those conflict criminals have been a part of the current spate of pardons by Trump.
Leon Black just isn’t an anomaly. Five MoMA board members – Tananbaum, Dubin, Cohen, Black, Fink – have been recognized and targetted by totally different teams during the last 12 months for their ties to conflict, racist jail and border enforcement methods, vulture fund exploitation, gentrification and displacement of the poor, extractivism and environmental degradation, and patriarchal types of violence. Board members even have ties and donate to the NYPD Police Foundation. In brief, the rot is on the core of the establishment, which incorporates PS1. MoMA/PS1 administrators and directors have quietly taken the soiled cash within the identify of artwork and made empty curatorial gestures in the direction of political points. MoMA’s director Glenn Lowry has mentioned that Leon Black “continue[s] this tradition of visionary leadership with their passion for modern and contemporary art, strategic planning and financial expertise, and deep understanding of the Museum and its mission.” MoMA’s mission, then, should be artwashing; however it might now not clear the truth that conflict and jail profiteering, youngster prostitution, and varied types of structural racism are a part of the construction of MoMA/PS1. For a civic establishment with civic tasks that is unacceptable. Nothing wanting a significant reconstitution of the board, a change of administrators, a public reckoning, and a reimagining of the institutional and curatorial mission of the museum is appropriate. We additionally reiterate earlier calls for that MoMA/PS1 concern a public assertion relating to their place on proceeds and donations that come on account of violence from these points, and begin a clear public investigation into any and all funds linked to those issues, together with these within the varied pension funds utilized by the establishment; and that MoMA/PS1 start a community-based strategy of reinvestment, redistribution, land restoration, and reparations in affected communities.
MoMA Divest Coalition
(*150*) This Place
Fuck MoMA: An Open Call To Action
We are uninterested in the identical shit making information again and again. It has develop into a banal routine. One place after one other. Another establishment, one other oligarch artwashing their death-dealing income, with womxn bearing the brunt of all of it. This just isn’t a PR disaster, or only a matter of poisonous philanthropy. MoMA is a frontline of gendered and racialized class conflict, and all of us have a accountability to behave.
Letters, pleas, and backroom offers should not sufficient. After the elimination of Kanders from the Whitney, after the George Floyd rise up, after the open declaration of conflict by Fascists in search of to salvage white heteropatriarchal rule, we should do and demand extra. Board members should not the issue. They solely make the issue seen. MoMA in its entirety is the issue. Perhaps it’s time to abolish MoMA.
MoMA was based with the oil wealth of the Rockefellers. Since then, the museum has been a clearing home for capital, a showcase for domination, and an ecocidal machine. It has diversified in content material, however in observe it has been an enemy of the poor and the marginalized, the fired and the furloughed, the displaced and the dispossessed, the detained and the deported, the dying and the lifeless. After the current uprisings, MoMA and different cultural establishments are scrambling to proclaim their dedication to justice, variety, and fairness. How can an establishment declare such values with predatory billionaires controlling it? Even visionary exhibitions like Marking Time: Art within the Age of Mass Incarceration can’t escape this contradiction.
Various campaigns and actions have mentioned this lately: MoMA is anti-Womxn, anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-Migrant, anti-Worker. Not just because MoMA has did not be really inclusive in its assortment or programming or staffing. But as a result of MoMA, as an establishment harboring the likes of Leon Black and Larry Fink, is complicit in oppression globally, from the burning of the Amazon to migrant detention camps to gentrification and mass displacement, to the exploitation of womxn and youngsters. If left unchallenged, MoMA will proceed to pose a hazard to humanity and the planet at massive.
So what wouldn’t it imply to abolish MoMA, and who will undertake this activity? Such an effort requires us all. A stakeholder-led decolonization course of may very well be a approach ahead to cope with this fuckery. Absent such an initiative, we encourage self-organized motion in order that MoMA will see the writing on the wall. Here is a Decolonial Operations Manual for individuals who want to act autonomously. We remind most of the people that the MoMA constructing is open day-after-day of the week from 10:30 am to five:30 pm.
(*150*) This Place
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