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A group of artists has launched a campaign targeting major New York museums and galleries that have boarded up their buildings and refrained from providing sanctuary to Black Lives Matter protesters. The new group, which identifies as Artists for Workers (AFW), began its action with a parody of the New Museum, using the museum’s visual language and branding to draw attention to the institution’s “political inaction and complicity with racial capitalism.”
The group is responsible for a series of posters that appeared this week on the New Museum’s front windows and on boarded-up facades of nearby buildings including the MoMA Design Store in SoHo. The museum, which is closed due to COVID-19, recently removed the plywood boards that had covered its facade this spring, but its entrance remains barricaded.
The posters, which can easily be mistaken for official New Museum marketing material, carry critical slogans that read in block letters: “New Museum same old bullshit”; “No museum/No sanctuary/No justice”; and “We can’t exploit protests so we will be closed until further notice.”
In addition, AFW has launched a website that closely mirrors the official New Museum website but replaces museum content with protest images, statements, and links to Black Lives Matter resources. Other items on the mock webpage direct visitors to information about upcoming protests and activist groups. AFW says it plans to continue updating the website over the coming months.
AFW includes “nearly a dozen” American and international artists based in New York City, according to its organizers. The group defines itself as an initiative that “uses the creative skill sets of affiliated members (including design, performance and hacking) to independently support the efforts of organizing and striking workers across different fields.” The group says it targets institutions that “refuse to treat their workers justly,” sometimes working collaboratively on campaigns with organizing workers. In this case, the group stated that its members have no professional association with the New Musem and that its campaign is independent of the New Museum Union, although they stand in solidarity with the museum’s workers.
The New Museum has not responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.
“Whilst some major cultural organisations opened up their doors for BLM protestors, others, including the New Museum, chose to board up the facades of their premises to protect their property and keep protestors out,” AFW said in a statement to Hyperallergic. “The decision to board up the museum rather than support protestors and redeploy resources to assist with the movement comes at a time when many unionized workers have been laid off or furloughed in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many junior and non-managerial staff without healthcare.”
“The museum has developed a reputation for being vehemently anti-union
and anti-worker and the New Museum Union has been met with ongoing hostility from museum management since they started organizing,” AFW continues. “Given that the oppression of racial minorities in the United States is intrinsically connected to the development of capitalism it is imperative that organisations and institutions confront their anti-union biases alongside their racism and racial biases.”