“I am a communist and my painting is a communist painting. But if I were a shoemaker, Royalist or Communist or anything else, I would not necessarily hammer my shoes in any special way to show my politics.” Pablo Picasso
“Picasso is a communist. Neither am I.“ Salvador Dali
Women in gowns and men in tuxedos stretched around the block Friday to see the New York museum’s $450 million redesign. Also there were two police vans and about 100 protesters, chanting, screaming and dancing. They held signs — “Divest from Prisons” and “Blood on Your Walls” — and loud applause erupted when two of the group emerged from the museum with a banner saying “MoMA/Fink Make Sanctuary Not Prisons.”
The target that night was Larry Fink, the head of BlackRock Inc., and the activists ire was over the firm’s investment in “prison companies, the war machine and the destruction of the global environment.” Another group was there Monday to protest Steve Tananbaum’s ties to the Puerto Rico debt crisis. The groups, which include New York Communities for Change, want the founder of GoldenTree Asset Management removed from the board of trustees, according to Julio Lopez Varona, one of the organizers.
Seven people were arrested at Monday’s protest, according to the New York Post.
Elite New York organizations have long been subject to protests, but activists have increased their focus on museums this year and achieved some success. Warren Kanders, resigned in July as vice chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art following months of demonstrations by activists opposed to his company’s sale of law enforcement and military supplies, including tear gas. [Katya Kazakina and Michelle Kaske on MOMA’s reopening]
In a candid assessment of what’s happening in the business world — and perhaps taking a veiled shot at Washington at the same time — Mr. Fink wrote that he is seeing “many governments failing to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining.” He added, “As a result, society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges.”
It is a refrain that we’re hearing more and more from various pockets of the business community, and in fact last year company leaders found themselves taking stands on issues like immigration policy, race relations, gay rights and more.
But for the world’s largest investor to say it aloud — and declare that he plans to hold companies accountable — is a bracing example of the evolution of corporate America. Mr. Fink says he is adding staff to help monitor how companies respond; only time will tell whether BlackRock truly uses his firm’s heft to influence new social initiatives. [Andrew Ross Sorkin BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support]
I think for every cultural institution, and probably every educational institution and hospital, we’re all living in the real world, and we’re all acutely aware of the issues that are being brought to the surface and that have to be contended with. There’s no formula for that, and our trustees are aware of that.
At the same time, the vast majority of American institutions like ours are privately funded. We don’t get federal funding. We don’t get state funding in our case—we got a very modest amount of city funding for our capital project, and we get a little bit on occasion beyond that. But we’re not a CIG—a member of the cultural industries group—so there’s no line-item funding.
We live and die by the amounts of money we can raise privately. Some of that is self-earned through admissions, membership, retail, general fundraising. A very considerable amount of that is through the generosity of our trustees. So there is a balance that we tried to strike, but we are acutely aware that this is a different climate than it was a decade ago. [Glenn Lowry in conversation with Andrew Goldstein]