ART AND CULTURE ARE PART OF THE COMMONS. ART IS THE INHERITANCE OF ALL PEOPLE. ART IS NOT A LUXERY ITEM.
A few ways in which museums serve the 1% rather than the 99%:
Museums allow a conflict of interest on their boards. The MoMA board of trustees shares two members with Sotheby’s board – a leading speculator in high-end art markets. To fairly serve the public, museums should be separate from the art market. Dakis Jannou, a New Museum board member, showed his private collection in the museum, a blatant conflict of interest.
Museums function as tax shelters for the mega-rich. 100% of the market value of artwork given to a museum is tax deductible. Private museums, such as Ronald S. Lauder’s Neue Gallerie, create easy ways for the wealthy to have their tax cake and eat it, too. When art collectors influence “market value” you have a corruption problem.
Museums abuse labor. There are very few unions in museums. Museum guards are underpaid and often mistreated. Administrative offices abound with unpaid intern labor. Increasingly, new museums abroad, such as the Guggenheim Dubai, rely on exploiting labor to build signature showplaces.
Museums promote a cult of celebrity and the commodification of art, which limits the range and potential of culture and expression. Driven by corporate media hype and inflated values based on false scarcity, the international art market has become an investment playground for the 1%.
Museums don’t follow “progressive stack” (a strategy from Occupy Wall Street that empowers underrepresented voices to be heard). Museums began as a means to display the stolen spoils of colonialism. This legacy of racism, patriarchy and exploitation permeates many museums, and is one reason why one finds so little race, gender, and class diversity in the art canon.
Museums must be held accountable to their mission to serve the public. The taxes of 99% support cultural institutions, yet we have no voice in the decision making process. Museums, dependent on large donations, allow the 1% and corporations to wield enormous influence over our art and culture. They have the authority to define what is art, and what is not, what is culture, and what is not. Like our government, which no longer represents the people, museums have sold out to the highest bidder.
It’s time to take them back.