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Protesters outside of MoMA on Friday, October 18. Photo: Lauren Cavalli.

MoMA Opening Party Disrupted by Activists

As the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York welcomed guests to its opening preview party on Friday, October 18, days before it reopens to the public following a $450 million expansion, dozens of protesters convened in front of its new canopied entrance on West Fifty-Third Street to protest board members Larry Fink, the CEO and chair of the investment firm BlackRock, and Steven Tananbaum, founder, managing partner, and chief investment officer of GoldenTree Asset Management, for their connections to private prisons and the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, respectively.

While Fink has previously been targeted for his firm’s stakes in the GEO Group and Core Civic, which operate private prisons—more than 220 artists and scholars signed an open letter to the museum demanding that Fink divest from the companies last week—Tananbaum has only recently become a target of anti-artwashing activists. The demonstrators participating in the action, which was organized by the New Sanctuary Coalition, Art Sanctuary, and Freedom to Thrive, among other grassroots organizations, called for Tananbaum’s removal from the board.

According to the Art Newspaper, Tananbaum’s hedge fund owns at least $2.5 billion of Puerto Rico’s debt. His firm GoldenTree Asset Management is considered a “vulture fund,” and it allegedly rushed to buy the US territory’s debt when it was in danger of defaulting. According to the New York Times, the government oversight board steering Puerto Rico through its debt crisis filed a lawsuit against several banks and financial firms in May declaring debt reconstruction unconstitutional, and activists have been fighting for its debt to be voided for months.

The protesters at MoMA are using the unveiling of the museum’s expansion as a moment to draw attention to Fink and Tananbaum’s business activities. Sophia Garcia, a member of Art Space Sanctuary, told Artnews that they are trying to keep up the momentum from the campaign against toxic philanthropy that led Warren B. Kanders, the CEO of Safariland, to step down from the Whitney Museum of American Art in July.

As protesters chanted and unfurled banners that read “End Detention, Displacement, Dispossession,” “Close the Camps,” and “Abolition Now,” a handful of activists entered MoMA and continued the action inside the museum. After hanging a banner from the second floor, the protesters exited.

Activists are planning another action to take place during the museum’s official reopening on Monday. Artforum has reached out to MoMA for a statement.

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