The current enthusiasm for decolonization affects every corner of our lives, but the most obvious is the demand for art institutions. In particular, large museums in Europe and the United States are under increasing pressure because their acquisition and collection history is entangled with colonialism.
However, the decolonization of museums must go far beyond returning looted artifacts or repairing exhibitions to present more accurate historical versions. Museums’ extreme reliance on corporate sponsorship and super-rich donors is increasingly under attack.
This crisis is most evident in the operations of the more famous museums. These institutions are the public image of the art world, but their trustee boards are crowded with corporate freedom predators, and their commercial value is very different from the commercial value of the cultural creators of the names and works they buy and sell.
A movement to eradicate “art baptism” is underway-a custom that uses art and culture to cleanse ill-gotten wealth and predatory behavior. These profits usually come from industries that harm communities that should enjoy museums and benefit from them: prison expansions, weapons manufacturing, development projects that gentrify communities, and so on.
Some radical groups have sprung up to administer powerful drugs. In recent years, Liberate Tate and BP or Not BP have lobbied to “get rid of oil art” in major British museums. The goal of PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) is the sponsorship of several museums by the Sackler family. They profited from the opioid crisis in the United States. For several years, the Gulf Labor Union successfully prevented the Guggenheim Museum in New York from abused workers With the support of the establishment of a new branch museum in Abu Dhabi; and the decolonization of this place expelled weapons manufacturer Warren Kander from the board of directors of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Strike MoMA-the artists’ direct action initiative for the Museum of Modern Art in New York-is the latest and most advanced effort to call for large sums of money to reach an evil agreement. The close relationship with the discredited Jeffrey Epstein forced the financier Leon Black to resign as chairman of the board. The museum has tried to quell the scandal, hoping to avoid it through the “bad apple” argument Further review.
But it turns out that this quarrel is the catalyst for Strike MoMA’s invitation to reimagine the utopian museum based on the need to divorce the super-rich and more directly serve as a public meeting place for the art community and the public.
Strike Moma expands the meaning of decolonization and is disrupting the normalization of an art world that has been occupied by tycoons, oligarchs and speculative market investors for ultra-luxury consumption. Through several weeks of virtual and on-site protests, seminars, panel discussions, mixed media messaging, and a recent trip to the “ruins of modernity” in the midtown Manhattan corporate building related to board members, Strike Moma is taking advantage of the opposition to institutional leaders. The surface reactions of critics have become more frequent.
These responses range from diversifying the art, curators, and staff on display, to reviewing whether board members are “outstanding” philanthropists, and increasing philanthropic investment—in other words, changing actors while maintaining the integrity of the power structure. On the contrary, Strike MoMA provides a vision of public art centered on people and communities, as well as control of related infrastructures that will belong to, be made and serve the people, including workers, artists and communities. In keeping with this people-centered vision, the art activist group sought to form alliances with the museum’s low-wage employees (including security, service, and maintenance personnel).
The actions of Strike MoMA seem to have exacerbated the philanthropic legitimacy crisis in New York City and other metropolitan cultural centers. A standard statement from these wealthy circles is that museums cannot exist without large sums of money, with the conclusion that, in general, this seemingly unalterable reality is better than bad.
MoMA Director Glenn Lowry responded to the weekly live demonstrations, accusing Strike MoMA of wanting to “dismantle” MoMA and all museums, “so they no longer exist.” In contrast, Strike MoMA’s rhetoric varies, from instigating “New MoMA” to “Post-MoMA Museum” to the slogan erected outside MoMA during the protests, which says “Post-MoMA Future”, which may be a sign The possibility of the formation of public art. However, no place has made an empty call for the end of the museum, nor has there been a fixed blueprint for what may happen next.
It is obvious that the art world is increasingly being surrounded by demands to dismantle the long-standing hierarchical system and is unable to resume normal operations. Museums are no longer regarded as special cultural institutions without capitalist exploitation, and as neutral entities serving only the public interest, nor as censorship of their colonial plundering history and complicity with corporate profits.
The contradiction between expressive humanism at the core of artistic creation and the devouring of these collectors has reached a critical point. The excitement about the intimate relationship between culture and wealth is nothing new. But now it is under the banner of decolonization, and the terms of participation are changing.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.