More than three dozen artists participating in a group show at MoMA PS1 have signed an open letter to both MoMA director Glenn Lowry and MoMA PS1 director Kate Fowle demanding that the institution divorce itself from trustees who have ties to either private prison companies or a defense contractor that was involved in the US wars in Iraq.
Among the 37 artists who signed the letter are the Guerilla Girls. Mona Hatoum, Jon Kessler, Laura Poitras, Michael Rakowitz, and Martha Rosler. The signatories include about half of the artists participating in the show, “Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011,” which features more than 300 works by 80 artists based in Iraq and its diaspora, as well as artists responding to the war from the West.
“We support these artists’ right to make their voices heard,” a MoMA PS1 spokesperson told Artnet News in an email
The artists say in the letter that they are “drawing attention to the Chairman of MoMA’s Board of Trustees, Leon Black, and his relationship to Constellis Holdings. Black is co-founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, which in 2016 acquired Constellis, the rebranded private security firm Blackwater, notorious for its role in the 2007 Nisour Square Massacre, when Blackwater guards killed at least 14 Iraqi civilians and injured many more.”
While the open letter does not mention Larry Fink by name, the artists said they support fellow artist Phil Collins who withdrew his piece, baghdad screentests, from the show in support of activists demanding that Fink, a MoMA trustee, divest himself from private prison companies. Fink’s company BlackRock is the second-largest investor in GEO Group and CoreCivic, which operate private prisons.
“We call on 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,” the letter read.
Meanwhile, Fink announced today that his firm would be making future investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core principle.
Fink’s annual letter to CEOs of the world’s largest companies said that BlackRock would begin to leave certain investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal producers. Neither MoMA nor BlackRock immediately responded to requests for comment.
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