The Sinews of Art


Like the members a ’60s reunion band, 50 protestors gathered in Manhattan’s Columbus Square last week for the “Ruins of Modernity Tour.”

The event—meant to be a raucous gallery tour at the Museum of Modern Art—was the fourth of 10 planned protests against MoMA, whose donors and administrators, the protestors claim, are “colonizers.”

Their organization, the International Imagination of Anti-National Anti-Imperialist Feelings, is calling for a “post-MoMA future” where billionaires no longer control the institution.

The group comprises “art workers, organizers, activists, thinkers, friends, lovers, and teachers” who oppose “the institution of MoMA and the systemic harm it perpetuates.”

While “MoMA respects the right to protest,” according to its director, museum guards denied the Ruins of Modernity Tour entry when it arrived at the front door. One protestor was struck by a guard. “Now, it’s personal,” said an eyewitness.

MoMa claims the protestors brought trouble onto themselves by showing “complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and visitors.”

The protestors pledge to return.

I’m an old protestor myself, so my heart’s with the International Imagination.

But I have to admit their cause is—I was about to say silly—self-defeating.

Artists should be the last to want to drive the billionaires from art. Just ask any practitioner.

If I could build a time machine, I’d transport the protestors to the 19th century, to pay a call on novelist Samuel Butler, who sagely said, “The sinews of art and literature, like those of war, are money.”

UPDATE: According to Hyperallergic, MoMA’s executive director denies an International Imagination protester was struck and defends the museum guards’ actions last week. “The violence by the protestors left everyone who witnessed it in shock,” he wrote in an email. “There is no condition under which we will allow anyone’s health or safety to be put at risk.”