Occupy Museums with Teamsters Local 814 Art Handler’s at MoMa – January 27, 2012
Two weeks have passed since our January 13th action, in which we stood in solidarity with Teamsters Local 814 Art Handler’s Union in its struggle to end the lockout of the union by the billion-dollar auction-house Sotheby’s. In light of the numerous ties between MoMA and Sotheby’s, we demanded that the museum call for an end to the lockout by its corporate affiliate.
As part of our action on the 13th, a banner was dropped in the second-floor atrium calling for an end to the lockout. The head of Security at MoMA coercively confiscated this now-historic banner. In a public letter sent to the museum one week ago, we called it a “unilateral acquisition” and stipulated that the museum accede to our conditions of publically calling for an end to the lockout to complete the acquisition. In turn, the museum called for us to retrieve the banner, stating that it was “left” on the premises, as if by accident. We know and they know that this is untrue; a rather disgraceful attempt to ignore an uneven acquisition policy, and the larger issues about concentrations of money and power in the art world we are raising.
The fact that public-money-receiving “non-profit” MoMA shares two board members with Sotheby’s— a speculative, for profit auction house whose business benefits greatly from the approval major museums give artist’s work— could possibly be purely coincidental.
It is not coincidental that Occupy Museums and the Teamsters local choose a Target Free Friday to re-claim their artwork. As working artists and locked out union members—it is the only day, we can afford to enter the museum. As it turns out, this free day was initiated not by the mega-retailer, but rather by pressure from a group of artists/activists called the Art Workers Coalition in the 1970’s. Their struggle then, and our shared struggle today is to put culture into the hands of the 99%- the artists, art lovers and workers who are largely invisible to the museum.
Today we will present MoMA a second chance to stand up for the rights of Sotheby’s art handlers- the workers behind the scenes of the glamorous 1% auctions. We invite the museum directors and staff to join our assembly and respond to the conditions we have made public. This show of solidarity from a major institution will be an invaluable support as the 99% prepare to stand for equality and justice for all workers on May 1st and beyond. Expect Us.