Saturday, May 21, 2022

Why Artists Protested At Museum of Modern Art In 1969


In their 1969 manifesto, Jon Henricks and Jean Toche of a late 1960s Movement art action group explained why they decided to historically protest inside Midtown Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art [MoMA] on Oct. 31, 1969:

"We demand that the Museum of Modern Art decentralize its power structure to a point of communalization. Art, to have any relevance at all today, must be taken out of the hands of an elite and returned to the people. The art establishment as it is used today is a classical form of repression. Not only does it repress the artist, but it is used:

"1.) to manipulate the artists themselves, their work, and what they say for the benefit of an elite working together with the military/business complex.

"2.) to force people to accept more easily--or distract them from--the repression by the military/business complex by giving it a better image.

"3.) as propaganda for capitalism and imperialism all over the world. It is no longer a time for artists to sit as puppets or `chosen representatives' at the feet of an art elite, but rather it is the time for a true communalization where anyone, regardless of condition or race, can become involved in the actual policy-making and control of the museum...

"...Today the museum serves not so much as an enligtening educational experience, as it does a diversion from the realities of war and social crisis. It can only be meaningful if the pleasures of art are denied instead of reveled in. We believe that art itself is a moral commitment to the development of the human race and a negation of the repressive social reality. This does not mean that art should cease to exist or to be produced--especially in serious times of crisis when art can become a strong witness and form of protest--only the sanctification of art should cease during these times."

And on November 18, 1969, the same Movement art action group stated the following in a second manifesto:

"We as artists feel that there is no moral justification whatsoever for the Museum of Modern Art to exist at all if it must rely...on the continued acceptance of dirty money. By accepting soiled donations from these wealthy people, the museum is destroying the integrity of art. These people have been in actual control of the museum's policies since its founding. With this power they have been able to manipulate artists' ideas; sterilize art of any social protest and indictment of the oppressive forces in society; and therefore render art totally irrelevant to the existing social crisis."

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