After being closed since June, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) will reopen to the public on October 21st. In addition to the close scrutiny of its revamped campus, there has been renewed scrutiny of MoMA’s board in the form of an open letter signed by 220 artists, academics, and curators demanding accountability from a major MoMA trustee.
The letter addresses Larry Fink, who is a major art collector and the CEO and chairman of the investment management company BlackRock. It states that Fink “is the second largest shareholder of prison companies, GEO Group and Core Civic” adding that “with over $2 billion in contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), these companies have been responsible for 70% of all immigration detention including caged children and families separated at the border as well as in the interior.” The letter calls on Fink to divest from companies profiting from the climate crisis and mass incarceration.
The MoMA letter came amid heightened awareness of museum funding; in July, Warren Kanders stepped down from the Whitney Museum’s board after countless protests and eight artists requesting their work be removed from the Whitney Biennial (they reversed the decision after Kanders’s departure). This coincided with the ongoing Sackler scandal, which has led such institutions including Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, the Tate, and the Louvre to sever ties with the Sacklers.
The letter to MoMA states, in part:
We denounce MoMA’s connections to mass incarceration, global dispossession and climate catastrophe, and demand that MoMA’s Board member Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, divest from prison companies, the war machine and the destruction of the global environment. [. . .] BlackRock also owns billions of dollars in shares of weapons manufacturers. The company has more money invested in the fossil fuel and agribusiness industries—the biggest drivers of climate change—than any other company in the world. [. . .] We demand that MoMA board member Larry Fink begin by divesting all assets from GEO Group and Core Civic.
The letter was circulated by New York’s New Sanctuary Coalition, which noted in a statement that they’re working with many other activist groups, including Decolonize This Place, a group that was pivotal in the fight to remove Kanders from the Whitney.
Among the letter’s signatories are Claire Bishop, Tania Bruguera, Chloë Bass, Alejandro Cesarco, Susan Cianciolo, Kimberly Drew, Noah Fischer, Hal Foster, Andrea Fraser, Park McArthur, Mika Rottenberg, and Hito Steyerl.