Left: Leon D. Black (via Dow Jones Events/Flickr); Right: The Museum of Modern Art (via Bit Boy/Flickr)

Disgraced billionaire Leon Black, a trustee at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), is facing rape allegations for the second time. In a lawsuit filed Monday, November 28, plaintiff Cheri Pierson accuses Black of a “brutal” sexual attack at the Manhattan mansion of his depraved former financial advisor, Jeffrey Epstein.

Pierson claims that Black raped her in a “secluded and private area” on the third floor of Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse in the spring of 2002. According to the lawsuit, Pierson was there to give Black a massage in exchange for money she “desperately needed to help care for her young daughter.” The meeting was arranged by Epstein, the lawsuit says, adding that Black paid Pierson $300 for the massage. Black’s net worth is estimated at $9 billion, according to Forbes.

“By the time Ms. Pierson exited the massage suite and rode down the elevator with Black, she could barely walk out of the house onto the sidewalk, as she was in excruciating pain and still in shock,” reads the lawsuit, filed by the law firm Wigdor LLP. “Black callously announced that his driver was waiting for him, turned his back and left her standing at the curb.”

Hyperallergic has contacted MoMA to inquire whether Black will remain a trustee, but the museum has not yet responded to the request for comment. In early 2021, over 150 artists signed an open letter calling for MoMA to cut ties with the financier, who at the time held the role of chairman of the board. A month later, Black announced his decision to step down as chairman; however, he remains on the museum’s board as a trustee.

The lawsuit describes in graphic detail how Black allegedly forced himself on Pierson, leaving her genitals “swollen, torn, and bleeding.”

“She recalls desperately yelling and screaming but is unsure what words came out in her upside-down state,” Pierson’s lawyers write. “She tried to kick. She struggled to free her legs from his vicious grin, but he was too strong. Unquestionably, he knew she did not consent.”

Another woman who is also represented by Wigdor, former model Guzel Ganieva, filed a lawsuit against Black last June, accusing him of defamation and years-long sexual abuse. Ganieva has since amended her court filing to also accuse Black of raping another unnamed woman in Epstein’s townhouse, described as a single mother of “limited financial means.” Black has acknowledged his relationship with Ganieva but has denied the allegations against him and ultimately retaliated with his own defamation lawsuit against her.

In addition to allegations of sexual misconduct and rape, Black has also been accused of war profiteering based on his investments in Constellis Holdings, formerly Blackwater, a security contractor with a gruesome record in Iraq.

It remains to be seen whether MoMA will continue its relationship with Black despite the serious allegations leveled against him. The museum is currently hosting an installation by Barbara Kruger, an artist known for her catchy, slick slogans about power, identity, and consumerism. One central phrase in the installation — printed in large, white-on-black block letters — might provide a hint about the future of MoMA’s relationship with Black. It reads simply: “MONEY TALKS.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

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