A group of artists has responded to the World Monuments Fund (WMF)’s open call for at-risk cultural heritage sites with an unconventional nomination: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, the epicenter of recent protests against toxic philanthropy.
The application, reviewed by Hyperallergic, was submitted by Artists for a Post-MoMA Future (A4PMF), a coalition of activist groups exposing museum trustees’ indirect ties to human rights abuses, climate change, and other violations around the world. For the last ten weeks, they have hosted demonstrations and teach-ins outside of the building under the banner of “Strike MoMA,” a campaign to advocate for alternative institutional models.
“It has become increasingly clear that the well-being of the artworks inside the building is made possible by the discomfort and death of others we do not see,” A4PMF wrote in the application, submitted last month.
The group went on to list and denounce several MoMA board members, including Leon Black, Steven Cohen, Glenn Dubin, Steven Tananbaum, and Larry Fink, for their connections to “war, racist prison and border enforcement systems, vulture fund exploitation, gentrification and displacement of the poor, extractivism and environmental degradation, and patriarchal forms of violence.”
The nomination was made for MoMA to be included on the 2022 World Monuments Watch, the WMF’s biannual list of 25 global heritage sites considered to be endangered by a range of risk factors. In its most recent call for applications, the organization encouraged submissions focused on three specific threats to cultural sites: climate change, underrepresented heritage, and imbalanced tourism exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.
A4PMF tailored its responses to address those risk factors through the lens of MoMA trustees’ problematic sources of wealth and the museum’s own activities. In response to a question about the pandemic’s impact, they cited the 76 contracted museum educators laid off at the height of the crisis last year.
In a section calling for 12 images illustrating the threats to the nominated site, the group attached eight portraits of MoMA trustees as well as photos of tense altercations during peaceful protests at the museum. One of them depicts security guards refusing entry to demonstrators; another shows strikers being confronted by New York Police Department officers at the institution’s Queens affiliate, MoMA PS1.
“If we are included in the 2022 World Monuments Watch, it would allow for people to see that there are more ways in which art and culture is damaged that is less visible than iconoclasts wielding sledgehammers or acts of nature like erosion,” the group said in the application. “Should the World Monuments Watch take this application seriously, it would deepen our conversation about these issues in a manner that is unprecedented.”
In response to Hyperallergic’s email about the submission, WMF said it does not comment on individual nominations before or during the review process. Final selections will be announced next spring.