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Sotheby’s Art Handlers & OWS Protest Whitney Biennial VIP Party

by Hrag Vartanian on February 28, 2012

Tonight’s Whitney Biennial VIP Party brought together two sectors of the art world that continue to butt heads in this post-Occupy Wall Street world. Chic art world partygoers were lined up on Madison Avenue waiting to drink champagne at the Sotheby’s-sponsored Biennial, while a few dozen protesters and an inflatable cat were bringing attention to the museum’s association with the auction house that has locked out union art handlers since early August.

This evening’s protest was the latest incarnation of Occupy Museums‘ most astute political tactic, which is to confront the disparity of the art world head-on and highlight the labor issues that continue to create a playing field that is thoroughly uneven.

One protestor, Cai Machet of Occupy Museums, was wearing a conical hat reminiscent of medieval times and a sticker that read “CULTURE Day 1 of Biennial + BARBARISM Day 210 of Local 814 Lock Out = Sotheby’s.” She also was wearing a sash that read Misanthropy and carrying a basket of posters and a silver tray. “Lots of people don’t know what misanthropy mean,” she says about the revelers waiting to get into the Whitney. “I tell them it’s the opposite of philanthropy.”

Chants of “Shame on Sotheby’s, No Justice, No Peace,” rang out in from of the monolithic museum building but the lines and partygoers seems undeterred by the noise or commotion. One security guard with an ear piece was overheard telling a member of the NYPD that there are about a dozen protestors inside in addition to those out front. The protestors didn’t seem angry and they didn’t appear intent on shutting down the party, this was about raising awareness.

A few moments later, when the lines started to die down, I overheard Machet talking to a gentleman in line about the issues at stake, he seemed supportive and even wished her luck and to “keep it up.” He continued into the museum.

It’s obvious this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Occupy Museums during the 2012 Whitney Biennial.

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