Occupy Wall Street Movement Declares War on NYC Museums as “Temples of Cultural Elitism”

Created by artist Noah Fischer and published on Paddy Johnson‘s Tumblr, Occupy Museums! is a protest call to fight the “intense commercialization and co-optation of art” that has occurred in recent years. The plan is to visit a trio of New York City art museums and occupy them, asking the museums to “open their minds and hearts.”

NOTE: The Occupy Museums! march is planned for tomorrow, Thursday, October 20.

The  polemical manifesto argues for fighting museums as manifestations of the cultural power of Occupy Wall Street’s targeted “1 percent.” The full text of the call is below, with boldfaced highlights added:

The game is up: we see through the pyramid schemes of the temples of cultural elitism controlled by the 1%. No longer will we, the artists of the 99%, allow ourselves to be tricked into accepting a corrupt hierarchical system based on false scarcity and propaganda concerning absurd elevation of one individual genius over another human being for the monetary gain of the elitest of elite. For the past decade and more, artists and art lovers have been the victims of the intense commercialization and co-optation or art. We recognize that art is for everyone, across all classes and cultures and communities. We believe that the Occupy Wall Street Movement will awaken a consciousness that art can bring people together rather than divide them apart as the art world does in our current time…

Let’s be clear. Recently, we have witnessed the absolute equation of art with capital. The members of museum boards mount shows by living or dead artists whom they collect like bundles of packaged debt. Shows mounted by museums are meant to inflate these markets. They are playing with the fire of the art historical cannon while seeing only dancing dollar signs. The wide acceptance of cultural authority of leading museums have made these beloved institutions into corrupt ratings agencies or investment banking houses- stamping their authority and approval on flimsy corporate art and fraudulent deals.

For the last few decades, voices of dissent have been silenced by a fearful survivalist atmosphere and the hush hush of BIG money. To really critique institutions, to raise one’s voice about the disgusting excessive parties and spectacularly out of touch auctions of the art world while the rest of the country suffers and tightens its belt was widely considered to be bitter, angry, uncool. Such a critic was a sore loser. It is time to end that silence not in bitterness, but in strength and love! Because the occupation has already begun and the creativity and power of the people has awoken! The Occupywallstreet Movement will bring forth an era of new art, true experimentation outside the narrow parameters set by the market. Museums, open your mind and your heart! Art is for everyone! The people are at your door!

In a slightly strange string of targets, Occupy Museums! plans to occupy the Museum of Modern Art, the Frick Collection, and the New Museum. Beginning at the Occupy Wall Street site, the march’s itinerary includes calls to occupy a series of subway trains as well.  Check it out in full at the bottom of this post.

Art and artists are a powerful part of the Occupy Wall Street protests (as ARTINFO has pointed out in our continuing coverage), but Occupy Museums! is attempting to bring the protest spirit directly into the art world (maybe Fischer should talk to the proprietor of a certain Twitter account). Except these museums — public institutions as they are — don’t really seem to be fitting targets for such vitriol. Try Gagosian gallery, maybe?

UPDATE: Fischer has noted that the Occupy Museums! action has been approved of by Occupy Wall Street’s Art and Culture group, of which the artist is a part. Occupy Museums! “is definitely not just my personal project,” Fischer writes, “it’s broadly part of the Occupy Movement’s aim to claim back the commons back from the 1% — from economic justice to public space, to art.” The statements that will be read will also be approved of by consensus.

We’ve created a poll on our Facebook page asking if Occupy Wall Street should be targeting museums. Check it out and respond! Current results: a resounding 29 NO votes and one solitary YES.

— Kyle Chayka

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Proposal for Occupy Museums! Schedule [Revised]:

NOTE: This is being planned for tomorrow, Thursday, October 20

Day 1:

3:00 Meet at Liberty Park
Teach-in about the museums we are going to occupy

4:15 Livestream- read document in front of 5000 viewers.

Occupy the 4 train

5:00 Occupy MoMA
hours: 10:30-5:30
11 W 53rd street New York, NY

Occupy the M3 Bus

6:00 Occupy Frick Collection
hours: 10:00-6 PM
1 East 70th Street, New York, NY

Occupy the 6 train

7:00 Occupy New Museum
Thursdays 6-8 free
235 bowery