In the Air
Art News & Gossip

In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Fake Whitney Press Release Solicits Artist Donations For Sotheby’s Fundraising Auction

Pin It

This morning the Whitney Museum faux press release pranksters struck again, sending out a purported request for artists to donate art to an upcoming fundraising auction to be held in conjunction with Sotheby’s to raise money for the museum’s under-construction Meatpacking District building. In addition to blasting the auction house for its ongoing lock-out of unionized art handlers and the Museum for accepting Sotheby’s corporate sponsorship of the 2012 Biennial, the purported press release announces the addition of “corporate persons” to its board.

The press release — which features a photograph of 2012 Whitney Biennial participant LaToya Ruby Frazier holding a sign at an Occupy Wall Street protest — bears the subject line “WHITNEY MUSEUM ANNOUNCES FUNDRAISING AUCTION WITH SOTHEBY’S, SEIZES COUNTERFEIT WEBSITE” and quickly makes its fakeness clear. It begins:

The Whitney Museum will hold a major benefit in Fall 2012 to raise funds for its ongoing downtown building expansion. The Museum is currently soliciting donations from artists for sales to be held November 12-14, 2012, through auction house Sotheby’s. The Museum is pleased to continue to do business with Sotheby’s after their generous sponsorship of this year’s Biennial, and unreservedly supports Sotheby’s attempt to break the union of its art handlers by locking them out of their jobs.

Then the release gets meta, playing a bit of reverse psychology on readers by claiming that the Whitney has seized control of the site Whitney2012.org, which has been issuing previous fake press releases, as if to further emphasize the truth of today’s announcement.

The Whitney Museum has also unilaterally acquired the website whitney2012.org, which was until recently issuing press releases falsely attributed to the Museum. The Museum regrets having lent its institutional identity to the artists involved and apologizes to its sponsors for any damage to their reputations caused by increased publicity about the realities of their business practices.

The rest of the press release, re-printed in full below, has plenty of inspired moments of Museum sponsorship satire, but this one in particular — under the heading “Corporate Persons Added to Museum Board” — merits highlighting:

The Museum also reiterates that it has no plans to further add artists, art workers, or low- and middle-income patrons to its Board. Instead, in recognition of new economic and political realities, the Museum announces a new position on its Board of Trustees reserved for corporate persons. As Chairman of the Board Simone Franc, Count de Monet, remarked, “The new centrality of for-profit corporations in civic life warrants changes in museum governance. Although the super-wealthy trustees, officers, and donors who underpin the Museum may act individually in the interests of corporate capitalism, corporations need to be granted a more direct voice in institutional decision-making.” Count de Monet added, “As for the laughable idea of adding poor people to the Board-art is about money, class, and power, and all they’ve got is student debt, crushing mortgages, and unpaid hospital bills.”

The Count de Monet, couldn’t be reached for comment, so we’ll just repost the entire press release now.

The Whitney Museum will hold a major benefit in Fall 2012 to raise funds for its ongoing downtown building expansion. The Museum is currently soliciting donations from artists for sales to be held November 12-14, 2012, through auction house Sotheby’s. The Museum is pleased to continue to do business with Sotheby’s after their generous sponsorship of this year’s Biennial, and unreservedly supports Sotheby’s attempt to break the union of its art handlers by locking them out of their jobs.

The Whitney Museum has also unilaterally acquired the website whitney2012.org, which was until recently issuing press releases falsely attributed to the Museum. The Museum regrets having lent its institutional identity to the artists involved and apologizes to its sponsors for any damage to their reputations caused by increased publicity about the realities of their business practices.

Museum Apologizes to Sponsors and Denounces Boardroom Occupation by Sotheby’s Workers

The Museum has maintained a policy of studied silence about the website affair. Risking confusion, the Museum made a careful effort neither to publicly acknowledge the site for fear of granting it further visibility, nor to move to shut down the site for fear of cries of censorship. “We needed to appear as a liberal and beneficent institution” explained Aglaia Sycophantes, Director of Sponsor Relations, Public-Private Partnerships, and Corporate Appeasement. “And thanks to the swirling waters of novelty and fashion, the serious issues raised by the website sank like a stone to the bottom of the news cycle before we had to respond.”

Despite its previous policy, the Museum was recently forced to acquire the forged domain through legal means and to reassert control over its identity. While it had to tolerate the facts published about its sponsors, the Museum could not allow to go unchallenged the false claims that it would begin to vet its sponsors, lower admission fees, transform the Museum into a cultural commons open to all, or increase the representation of artists, art workers, and low- and middle-income patrons on its Board. The Whitney rejects these calls to respond to the interests of the broader public and instead reiterates its utmost commitment and devotion to the richest individuals and corporations in our society.

This devotion was scandalously put into question when artists included in the Biennial recently allowed some of the art handlers currently locked out of their jobs at Sotheby’s to occupy the Whitney boardroom. The sight of these union members standing with protest sign in hand on the Museum’s polished marble conference table was simply too much to bear. The boardroom is the inviolate sanctuary of the one percent and the Museum cannot allow its mirror shine to be tarnished any further by the dirty boots of workers.

The Museum offers its heartfelt and humble apology, including on behalf of all the artists included in the Biennial, to our benevolent sponsors for this tactless prank that got out of hand. To be clear, the Whitney has no intention to vet donations and no policy to otherwise examine the ethical problems associated with donors or their money. The Museum has no regard for and will take no action to aid those who have been forced out of their jobs and onto the street amidst record-breaking auction prices and profits by their employer.

Sotheby’s Fundraising Auction and Special Commission

The cost of the Museum’s downtown expansion is nearing three-quarters of a billion dollars, so the Museum is happy to partner with Sotheby’s for its next fundraising auction. The Whitney simply cannot bother with the common workers whose labor makes art exhibitions possible at a time when the Museum needs ever more access to the huge amounts of capital sloshing through the worlds of art, real estate, and finance.  The Museum also announces a special commission for the auction by artist Santiago Sierra, in which the blood of art handlers will be baked into red velvet cupcakes and distributed to guests on silver platters carried by unpaid interns and naked, low-wage, nonunion temporary workers. As Ms. Sycophantes remarked, “We had to find a way to top the Marina Abramovic party for LA MOCA-and you won’t believe how great these cupcakes taste!”

Sponsorship Agreements Intact

The Museum maintains its sponsorship agreements with Sotheby’s and Deutsche Bank and assures all of its donors and sponsors it is grateful for their support. The $119 million recently paid for Edvard Munch’s Scream at Sotheby’s is thirty-four times the Museum’s 2011 annual acquisitions budget. In light of such staggering sums, the Museum will be happy to look the other way as the lives of forty-two locked-out art handlers at Sotheby’s are destroyed.

To continue in the spirit of gratitude, the Museum also thanks those news outlets that reported only on the medium of the so-called prank, rather than the content it expressed. Luckily, the Museum operates in a media environment focused more on the format of the hoax than the truth it speaks: the scandal of the exploitation of workers by a wealthy corporation. Like well-trained art patrons, many in the press have learned by heart a superficial formalism that can gloss over even the most disturbing aspects of reality.

Corporate Persons Added to Museum Board

The Museum also reiterates that it has no plans to further add artists, art workers, or low- and middle-income patrons to its Board. Instead, in recognition of new economic and political realities, the Museum announces a new position on its Board of Trustees reserved for corporate persons. As Chairman of the Board Simone Franc, Count de Monet, remarked, “The new centrality of for-profit corporations in civic life warrants changes in museum governance. Although the super-wealthy trustees, officers, and donors who underpin the Museum may act individually in the interests of corporate capitalism, corporations need to be granted a more direct voice in institutional decision-making.” Count de Monet added, “As for the laughable idea of adding poor people to the Board-art is about money, class, and power, and all they’ve got is student debt, crushing mortgages, and unpaid hospital bills.”

Exhibiting artists, Visitor Conduct and the Future of Whitney2012.org

The website whitney2012.org has entered our permanent collection, where it will be put into cold storage. The site may be exhibited as a token of the Museum’s self-reflexive openness to criticism only after its message becomes unreadable and no longer poses a functional threat to the economic interests of the museum, its sponsors, trustees, or board members-when it is as useful as a book with its pages glued shut. In the meantime, the Museum trusts its employees, artists, supporters, and visitors to maintain a polite silence about the matter. After all, averting your eyes from suffering, exploitation, or injustice is always in good taste.

— Benjamin Sutton

Tags: , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

  1. by art critic

    this is really good, this press release says it all. this press release should be hung in a museum and you know if you dont care the art world will keep going down hill.

  2. I wrote my countertop argument on yоur own Fake Whitney Рress
    Release Soliсіtѕ Artіst Donations For Sotheby

Add a Comment