Last Friday night at an exclusive preview party in New York hosted by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to celebrate the reopening of its $450 million refurbished galleries about 150 organisers and artists, managed to disrupt the event full of cocktail-sipping attendees.
The protesters gathered outside the museum to call on MoMA and its board member Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, to divest themselves from private prison companies. The protest was organised with the participation of 14 grassroots groups including New Sanctuary Coalition, Art Space Sanctuary, Decolonize This Place, Codepink, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and various prison abolition groups, among others.
A police force guarded the long line of guests who were waiting to enter the party. One guest expressed her dismay of the interruption. “These protests are everywhere now,” she said. “It’s a good cause, I guess, but I’m getting tired of them.” Another guest who works for an artist’s estate was more sympathetic. “I’d like to stay outside instead of going in,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but there are rich people with good morals,” she stated.
Fink’s company BlackRock is ranked the largest investment company worldwide with its assets under management worth around $6 trillion. BlackRock is the second-largest investor in two major private prison companies: GEO Group and CoreCivic.
On October 10 200 prominent artists, scholars, and critics signed an open letter entreating MoMA and its board member Larry Fink to end their investments in private prison companies. The statement, released by New Sanctuary Coalition, has garnered the support of prominent figures in the art world. Signatories include Tania Bruguera, Hito Steyerl, Xaviera Simmons, Andrea Fraser, Claire Bishop, Omar Berrada, Hal Foster, Chloë Bass, Alejandro Cesarco, and Nikki Columbus, among many others.
“With over $2 billion in contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.), 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 open letter continues, adding that MoMA’s pension fund, Fidelity, is also one of the largest owners of GEO Group and CoreCivic. “Prison companies are a part of the massive and racist state-sanctioned carceral system of the U.S., which has made the country the largest jailer in the world.”
Excerpts from HyperAllergic article 19/10/2019