Pro-Palestine Protests Shut Down MoMA and a Berlin Museum Performance

A total of 11 people were arrested or received citations at a concurrent protest in Brooklyn.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Photo: Miguel J. Rodríguez Carrillo/VIEWpress.

Art institutions in New York and Berlin were the site of multiple protests over the weekend amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. The actions resulted in a shutdown of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the suspension of a reading by Cuban artist Tania Bruguera at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof.

Just after 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 10, at MoMA, demonstrators calling for a free Palestine infiltrated the building and passed out custom-printed pamphlets designed to look like museum guides. The handouts called out five of the museum’s trustees for their alleged financial investments in Israeli weapons and surveillance technology. Those trustees included Leon Black, the private equity billionaire with ties to Jeffrey Epstein, as well as Larry Fink, Paula Crown, Marie-Josée Kravis, and Ronald S. Lauder.

Images and videos on Instagram show protesters chanting “Free Palestine” and unfurling banners in MoMA’s atrium bearing messages such as “MoMA Trustees Fund Genocide, Apartheid, and Settler Colonialism.”

MoMA security reportedly closed the galleries down in less than 15 minutes, according to Hyperallergic, which first reported the news. The museum’s doors were closed to visitors by 4:45 p.m., from which point only press was allowed in. The sit-in ended around 5:10 p.m. when the demonstrators left to march their way uptown.

Demonstrators are seen holding up a sign inside the MoMA. Photo by Alexa Wilkinson/WAWOG

Up to 800 protesters were estimated to have been in attendance at the demonstration, autonomously organized with ties to the Writers Against the War on Gaza and the New York chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement.

Meanwhile, a concurrent action, led by the group Within Our Lifetime Palestine, saw another 300 protesters gather at the Brooklyn Museum across town. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a New York-based non-governmental organization that supports Israel, has characterized Within Our Lifetime as a group that promotes “terrorism and bigotry” as well as “extremism” in the past.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) confirmed to Artnet News via email that 10 people were arrested at and one received a summons at the protest in Brooklyn. Those charged include Rudy Martinez, Jacob Gabriel, Ahmed Etman, Al-Tariq Calderon, Jose Rosete, Alvin Dan, Allen Dunlea, Feras Deek, Julieta Salgado and Jason Baerga. The charges ranged from resisting arrest and “violation of local law” to obstructing governmental administration, while Etman was charged with assault and Deek charged with attempted assault.

Within Our Lifetime organizers did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The demonstrations in New York followed the release of an open letter signed by more than a hundred cultural workers at institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Studio Museum.

“While the museums and cultural institutions of our city claim to hold commitments to justice, social action, and equity, their silence has rendered them complicit in the killing of over 27,000 people in Palestine, with thousands more trapped under rubble from bombings since October 7, 2023,” the letter reads.

Additionally, the letter cited months of institutional retaliation that artists and cultural workers have faced for “speaking out against genocide” while calling on institutions to “cease their association with Zionism” and demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

Tania Bruguera, artist and activist, reads from Hannah Arendt’s Elements and Origins of Totalitarianism before a press event for her performance “Where Your Ideas Become Civic Actions (100 Hours Reading The Origins of Totalitarianism)” at Hamburger Bahnhof. Photo: Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Meanwhile, pro-Palestine protesters interrupted a performance by the Cuban Tania Bruguera at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, Germany, also on Saturday. Bruguera’s 100-hour, around-the-clock reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism—an in-depth analysis of the social conditions that led to the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes—started on February and was due to end on Sunday, February 11.

In a statement posted to Instagram on Sunday, February 11, the Hamburger Bahnhof said a group of people who had registered to be a part of the reading “took advantage of the performance to use #HateSpeech” between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. The reading resumed but was interrupted again between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. when members of the same group returned and “used violent hate speech towards one of the readers and one of the museum directors.”

The museum’s statement continued: “In these circumstances, the open dialogue that is the intent of this performance is no longer possible. This morning, the artist decided to close the performance in standing up against hate speech and any form of #violence.”

The German culture minister Claudia Roth condemned the attack. “Hate, anti-Semitism, racism and such forms of violence are absolutely unacceptable and have no place in the space of art or anywhere else,” she said in a statement.

The U.S. and Germany are among Israel’s two closest allies and protests supporting Palestine are all but banned in Germany.

“They came, they protested, they made their points, people listened, some reacted, some observed, and they departed peacefully. The performance continued,” Bruguera posted on Instagram. “I don’t understand the fear of confrontation or accountability. I also condemn if further action is taken against the activists.”

Demonstrators are seen holding up a sign inside the MoMA. Photo by Alexa Wilkinson/WAWOG

Demonstrators are seen holding up a sign inside the MoMA. Photo by Alexa Wilkinson/WAWOG

Demonstrators are seen holding up a sign inside the MoMA. Photo by Alexa Wilkinson/WAWOG

Demonstrators are seen holding up a sign inside the MoMA. Photo by Alexa Wilkinson/WAWOG

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