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“Advice to the Museum of Modern Art about BIG donors with BIG ties to Jeffery Epstein,” reads a poster that appeared on a phone booth across the street from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Manhattan this past weekend. It continued: “MoMA should Kick Leon Black & Glenn Dubin off its Board immediately, drape the Black and Dubin Galleries in black, & put up wall labels explaining why.” The ad is signed by the veteran activist group Guerrilla Girls, who added their signature gorilla mask logo at the bottom of the poster. “The Guerrilla Girls volunteer to help write those labels,” the group adds.
“Leon Black and Glenn Dubin had very close personal ties, transactions, and exchanges with Jeffrey Epstein, both before and after Epstein’s conviction for sex trafficking,” the Guerrilla Girls told Hyperallergic in an email. “MoMA galleries named after Black and Dubin are an insult to museum-goers and to everyone who has experienced sexual assault.”
Last month, the New York Post reported that MoMA had quietly named a gallery on its fourth floor after its trustee Glenn Dubin and his wife Eva, a couple that had close ties to Epstein, the disgraced sex offender who killed himself in a Manhattan prison in August of this year. In a 2015 defamation suit unsealed this past August, Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers, claimed that in 2001 the predator exploited her as a “sex slave” at the age of 16 to a number of his powerful friends, including Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz. Giuffre claimed that Dubin, a hedge fund billionaire manager, was her first powerful client.
Furthermore, the sex offender had reportedly invested $10 million in Dubin’s hedge fund. His wife Eva reportedly dated Epstein prior to her marriage to Dubin in 1994. The Dubins denied any knowledge of Epstein’s misconduct. “The Dubins were horrified by and completely unaware of Jeffrey Epstein’s unspeakable conduct,” a spokesman on their behalf told the Post. “They categorically deny the allegations and have evidence disproving them.” But Vanity Fair reported that the couple has stayed in touch with Epstein after his conviction as a sex offender in 2008 and invited him to a Thanksgiving dinner while he was already a registered sex offender.
Epstein was also a board member at the Leon Black Family Foundation, a non-profit established by the chairman of the Museum of Modern Art’s board of trustees, as reported by the New York Post earlier this year. Epstein appeared on the list of board members of the foundation through the end of 2012, years after his conviction in sex crimes. A spokesperson on behalf of the Black family told Bloomberg that Epstein resigned from the foundation in July 2007 to the family’s request and that his name kept appearing in the filings due to a “recording error.”
Guerrilla Girls carried out their surreptitious ad takeover this weekend with the help of Art in Ad Places, a guerrilla-style activist group formed by writer RJ Rushmore, photographer Luna Park, and artist Caroline Caldwell. “We saw Guerrilla Girls’ tweet about MoMA’s board and thought: Wouldn’t that message be even more powerful right outside the museum? We can make that happen, so we reached out and offered to help,” Rushmore told Hyperallergic in an email. As of this morning, the poster was still up on the phone booth, according to Rushmore.”As we’ve seen recently at the Whitney and cultural institutions across the UK, it takes a combination of tactics to pressure museum boards and donors,” Rushmore added. “Viral tweets, critical essays, artists withdrawing work, and direct action at the doors of the institution can all play a part.”
“The Guerrilla Girls — and so many others — have been fighting museum bad behavior for years,” the Guerrilla Girls told Hyperallergic.
“Why should the wealthiest country in the world have to depend on philanthropy from the super rich to fund culture?” Guerrilla Girls asked. “If this is the lousy system we’re stuck in, at the very least museums should stop taking money from moguls who make the world worse instead of better. We’re talking about weapons dealer Warren Kanders; prison and student debt profiteer Larry Fink; the drug pushing Sacklers; the climate-denier Kochs; sexual predator enablers Leon Black and Glenn Dubin; and so many more.”
Update 11/13/19 11:57am: This article has been updated to incorporate new quotes provided by the Guerrilla Girls.