Sotheby's art handlers want MoMA to sever ties with the auction house, and they have good reason: MoMA has made millions at Sotheby's during the art handler lockout. In November, MoMA auctioned off two paintings by Rufino Tamayo, a sale which amassed over three million dollars for MoMA's acquisition fund.
As confirmed by David Martinez of the Teamsters Local 814, the latest protest will be held this Friday at MoMA. They've invited Occupy Museums to make the event as big as possible—and you should come, too. The reason for this protest is clear-cut: the teamsters want MoMA to stop selling art through Sotheby's. As Martinez relayed to me over the phone, “They can do it at Christies.”
Well, they can and they can't: the MoMA board members with an interest in Sotheby's would cry foul. There are at least four MoMA trustees with ties to Sotheby's. There's Jamie Niven (MoMA trustee and Sotheby's US chairman), Richard Oldenburg (MoMA director emeritus and honorary trustee, former chairman and now consultant at Sotheby's US), Danny Meyer (who runs MoMA's three restaurants and sits on the board of directors at Sotheby's), and Sharon Percy Rockefeller (former Sotheby's Board Member and current President of the International Council for MoMA).
Refusing to do business with Sotheby's might seem like a large demand, but the means to achieve this are fairly simple. Museum staff and committees can refuse to exhibit and acquire works that come directly from Sotheby's or reject invitations to attend Sotheby's auctions. These aren't ridiculous demands for museum staff to consider, not when Sotheby's has forced the 42 art handlers out of work and out of health care. As we reported last week, all the art handlers want at this point is to be assured that every time a union worker quits, he or she is replaced with another union worker. These are very small requests.
If you can make it to MoMA, meet the Professional Art Handlers Local 814 and Occupy Museums outside the main entrance this Friday at 6 PM.
As an extra bonus, here’s a quick map we put together on Muckety of some of the connections between major museums and the two largest auction houses. It’s not complete—we heartily encourage readers to make better maps themselves—but it does show that few of our most prominent institutions are entirely innocent.