Thirty-seven artists have signed an open letter addressed to Glenn Lowry and Kate Fowle, the directors of MoMA and MoMA PS1 respectively, urging them to reconsider connections to trustees and organisations that profit from the suffering of others. The letter, signed mostly by artists who are a part of MoMA PS1’s Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 exhibition, specifically called out Leon Black, chairman of MoMA’s board of trustees, who has links to Constellis Holdings, a private military company previously branded as Blackwater. Blackwater was notorious for the involvement of its operatives in the killing of 17 Iraqis in the Nisour Square massacre of 2007.
The letter ended with a request for PS1 to ‘stand by its stated mission and, together with MoMA, take a truly radical position by divesting from any trustees and sources of funding that profit from the suffering of others. MoMA has just rebuilt itself and opened a newly renovated and expanded museum with a more global and inclusive curatorial narrative; surely it must also be capable of rebuilding its board and envisioning new ethical standards and best practices when it comes to sourcing philanthropic support.’
Amongst the signatories is Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz, a participant in the Gulf War exhibition, who, over the weekend, visited the museum to pause his video installation RETURN (2004-) in a symbolic gesture of protest against MoMA PS1’s affiliation with Black and Larry Fink, another MoMA board member with connections to companies that make profit from unethical trades. Rakowitz made the move after several requests to alter the work by pausing the video and posting an explanatory statement beside it were ignored by museum staff. After his visit, the museum unpaused the video and removed the artist’s statement, against his express wishes.
American artist Martha Rosler shared the letter on Facebook along with an up-to-date list of fellow signatories on 14 January and a comment stating that there had been no response from the recipients so far.
15 January 2020