Artists, Curators, and Academics Call on MoMA and Trustee Larry Fink to Divest From Private Prisons

Nearly all the participants in a recent conference at the museum signed the letter.

Image courtesy of BitBoy via Flickr.

An open letter signed by academics, artists, curators, and activists asks New York’s Museum of Modern Art and its trustee Larry Fink, the CEO of the financial firm BlackRock, to divest from private, for-profit prisons. The letter was signed by participants in a conference on global art history held at the museum over the weekend, including artist Kader Attia, curator Omar Berrada, and Yale University associate professor Cécile Fromont.

The letter points out BlackRock’s investment in two companies, GEO Group and CoreCivic, that operate private prisons, as well as MoMA’s use of Fidelity Investments, which owns stock in private prison companies, to manage its pension fund.

The letter is just a small part of the growing scrutiny of the sources of funding that support museums and enrich their board members, which in recent years has targeted institutions from the Whitney Museum of American Art to the British Museum.

At the conference, Natalia Brizuela, an associate professor of modern and contemporary Latin American literature and culture at Berkeley, read aloud a statement she wrote with activist group Art Space Sanctuary, which has been leading the charge to raise awareness about MoMA and Fink’s investments. Her speech drew a standing ovation from some attendees, according to ARTnews, which first reported on the letter.

MoMA and Blackrock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The list of signatories included nearly every participant at the conference, ARTnews reported, from artists Jumana Manna and Zoran Popovic to philosopher Achille Mbembe.

Larry Fink at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 1, 2018 in New York City. Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images.

Larry Fink at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 1, 2018 in New York City. Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images.

The letter is the latest effort to draw attention to the private prison investment issue following a petition circulated by the group Art Space Sanctuary last month, which drew more than 80 signatures. The week before, the group had teamed up with CODEPINK and several members of museum activist collective Decolonize This Place to stage a protest at the museum’s annual David Rockefeller awards lunch. The event honored Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, who the groups say is also an investor in private prisons.

Read the petition and the full list of signatories below.

We, invited speakers at the MOMA-organized conference The Multiplication of Perspectives, ask that MOMA and its board member Larry Fink divest from private prison companies.

MOMA Board member Larry Fink is CEO of BlackRock, the 2nd largest shareholder of prison companies, GEO Group and Core Civic. With over $2 billion in contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), these two companies are responsible for over 70% of all immigration detention including families separated at the border. MOMA’s own pension fund, Fidelity, is also one of the largest owners of these prison stocks.

These prisons punish for profit, break up families and communities, detain immigrant children and impede visits.
These prisons are racist, violent and routinely violate human rights. Detained Migrants are denied due process.
These prisons cut costs, deny medical care and serve barely edible food.

These prisons think of immigrants as a market. This is just the beginning. They are seeking to expand into other markets.

If the MOMA Board are not convinced of the injustice, we ask that Larry Fink and the MOMA board meet with concerned artists, community leaders, immigrant rights organizations, and detainees to hear the real story about the prison shares they own.

Kader Attia
Zdenka Badovinac
Omar Berrada
Natalia Brizuela
Victoria Collis-Buthelezi
Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz
Cecile Fromont
Timea Junghaus
Jumana Manna
Joe Masco
Achille Mbembe
Zoran Popovic
Harsha Ram
Ann Stoler
Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi

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