Very, Very Depressing News - MOMA Acquires Occupy Wall Street Art
"Art patronage has always been a kind of money-laundering, a pretty public face for fortunes made in uglier ways." ~ Rebecca Solnit
In a truly depressing development, The Guardian reports that the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has acquired a collection of posters and prints from the Occupy movement. The works had been part of a collection at Occuprint.
Several things make this depressing. Most obviously, the posters not only have now been converted into private property but that this has happened in an 'of course,' 'isn't that great' sort of way. But I think this acquisition is symptomatic of the absence of just the sort of public space and just the sort of alternative institutional frameworks that - in large measure - the occupiers hoped to establish. It underscores both the continuing importance of the themes OWS articulated and it's lack of immediate impact.
Moreover, it is especially ironic - given some initiatives among the Occupiers themselves - that MOMA is absorbing the collection. This is as staid an institution as there is in NYC. It is the epitome of the "money laundering" function that cultural institutions of play for the wealthy. Posters and prints generated out of a movement of, for and by the 99% are being squirreled away by an institution whose history is, I suspect, intimately entangled with the 1%.
Finally, there are alternatives. Those alternatives are not perfect. Nor are they entirely inspiring in political terms. But they do not - as artist Molly Crabapple disingenuously suggested to The Guardian reporter - come down to selling off the collection to Morgan Stanley or some other corporate entity for display "in their lobby." I am hardly an expert on such matters. But it took me nearly no time to think of a counterexample to that rationalization. Consider ACT UP - a more or less direct political predecessor of the Occupiers. The ACT UP - NY archives went to the New York Public Library. The NYPL is a large cultural institution. But it is public, not private. And it is, I suspect, considerably less entangled with the monied elites than is MOMA. And it surely would look waaay(!) less impressive to all those denizens of the art world who care about such things, for Ms. Crabapple to list on her c.v. that her work is in the collection of the NYPL than to note that it is in the collection at MOMA!