Dear Dad

An intervention at the New Museum (all ethics have left the building and mother is turning in her grave). 2010. Unformatted text below.

An Intervention at The New museum: All ethics have left the building and mother is turning in her grave

March 5, 2010

Dear Dad,

We don’t talk about it ever, but I love you very much. I know you love me very much, and you are very proud of me. Your existence encouraged me in my career aspirations. You taught me that I need to learn how to take care of myself before I rely on anyone else to do things for me. You've exposed me to the art world. That exposure has led me to one conclusion: that exposure is only a small fraction of the support I need to survive as an artist.

Dad, W.A.G.E. is deeply concerned about you. Your strategic waste of funds and belligerent disregard for ethics has been a part of our lives since your re-launch. You suddenly seem to lack dedication to the mission you set out to accomplish and have disgraced our mother Marcia Tucker's wishes. Remember when she said that she "wanted the museum to welcome art that was excluded elsewhere because it was difficult, out of fashion, unsaleable or made by artists who were not white or male or straight"? Or her rejection of the corporate model, where "budgets and fund-raising had become predominant in a nonprofit world...often at the expense of the bottom line” — would be the guiding spirit of her new initiative — The New Museum. Under your guidance this nonprofit engages in an unethical allocation of funds, and has become a pubic-private partnership of insider trading.

You present a lot, but you support little. Your spending habits seem to provide you with a "high" from an artificial feeling of being in "the club", of being accepted. For instance, you spend millions of dollars on what you think are "blockbuster" art installations and buy an additional $16 million dollar building as real-estate speculation, yet you find it more "economical” to fire staff or withhold raises, rather than making cuts elsewhere. You present exhibitions from the collections of board members or artists with proven market success. You scheme to get artists, performers, independent curators, writers and smaller nonprofits — who can least afford it — to produce, screen, exhibit work and lend equipment without compensation. You offer nothing to artists whose work your institution-corporation depends on. You have yet to recognize your mimicking and worship of a failed, corrupt system, where profits trump people. You're binging and purging at our family's expense.

As you know, Dad, showing an entire collection of one of your board members or 3 consecutive shows featuring Uncle Gavin Brown's artists, is a CONFLICT OF INTEREST. We, as your family of artists, receive no royalties or resale compensation in the insider trading of our works. It's our own fault that we've trusted your good-intentions and well-wishes; we must confront our own denial of your serious problems. Our family has become tiresome- you pretend you're advocating on our behalf, but you're not. To have a successful support system, we need you as much as you need us. Dad, you have failed us.

When we show at your house, we can see it in your eyes, hear it in your speech — you’re drunk on wealth and cronyism. Your allocation of space and funds affects our lives. For us, ignorance is far from bliss. We love you and don’t like seeing your seriously destructive problems sucking the life out you, and us all. We’re here together because we want you to accept help. In the spirit of mother Marcia, we have some helpful (curatorial) suggestions:

- exhibit contemporary artists who are historically important but have died in severe destitution; or

- 50 artists under 33 who have no health insurance; or

- artists from all 5-boroughs who receive food stamps; or

- 5 female artists who have never made a living off their work but have been featured for more than 4 decades in shows internationally; or

- world-renowned performance artists who have never been paid a fee by a U.S. art institution; or

- independent curators curate a show for The New Museum and, for the first time, receive a fee!

Dad, we also need you to move Gran Fury's Silence=Death from the bathroom to the front desk, where it belongs. Additionally, please post Marcia's mission statement on your website — we're tired of the empty promise of NEW ART/NEW FOOD/NEW IDEAS.

These problems have been a part of our lives for a very long time. We didn’t get here overnight. It's ruining your life, and ours. Dad — will you accept our help today?

Your deeply concerned friends and family, W.A.G.E.