Angela Davis, Forensic Architecture, and Other Art-World Figures Are Denouncing MoMA Board Members for Ties to Pro-Israel Organizations

An open letter decrying the trustees has hundreds of signatories.

A demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag during a recent Strike MoMA protest. Courtesy of Strike MoMA via Twitter.

More than 285 people, including activist Angela Davis and artist Michael Rakowitz, have signed an open letter denouncing members of the Museum of Modern Art’s board for having alleged ties to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The letter was organized by Strike MoMA, the name under which a coalition of activist groups have united for a 10-week-long protest of the museum, and published today by the Social Text Collective blog. Other signatories include artists Korakrit Arunandchai, Chloe Bass, Meriem Bennani, and Forensic Architecture; and scholars Ariella Azoulay, Claire Bishop, and Fred Moten.

“We feel it is urgent to highlight the connections between the ongoing violence of Israel against the Palestinian people and a leading institution of the art system, namely the Museum of Modern Art,” it reads. 

“This letter aims to build decolonial solidarity across borders by drawing attention to MoMA’s entanglement with the mutually reinforcing projects of settler-colonialism, imperialism, and racial capitalism in Palestine, the U.S., and around the world.” 

MoMA trustees Leon Black, Paula Crown, Ronald Lauder, Daniel Och, and Steven Tananbaum are “directly involved with support for Israel’s apartheid rule,” the letter contends.

Och, for instance, is a former chairman and current supporter of the Birthright Foundation, a controversial non-profit that sends Jewish youth to Israel on heritage trips meant to encourage Zionist beliefs. Black, meanwhile, has donated more than $1 million to Birthright. 

Tananbaum has supported similar causes, the letter notes, once donating $1.8 million through his foundation to the Art Institute of Chicago in order to send young adults to Israel. Lauder, MoMA’s honorary chair, currently serves as president of the World Jewish Congress, an international federation of Jewish organizations which has historically pushed Zionist policies.

“With figures like Lauder, Crown, and Tananbaum on its board, MoMA cannot pretend to stand apart from the attack on Gaza or the Occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem more broadly,” the letter goes on. “Given these entanglements, we must understand the museum for what it is: not only a multi-purpose economic asset for billionaires, but also an expanded ideological battlefield through which those who fund apartheid and profit from war polish their reputations and normalize their violence.”

Representatives from MoMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The letter was published in conjunction with a planned protest at MoMA, the seventh in a string of 10 demonstrations that have taken place every Friday since early April. The fourth Strike MoMA protest ended in a heated standoff between demonstrators and security guards at the entrance to the institution with two security guards and one protester injured in the incident.

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