BY Frieze News Desk in News | 22 MAR 19

Tate Rejects Sackler Money Over Opioid Crisis Connection

In further news: Kehinde Wiley launches artist residency; calls for MoMA to divest from private prison companies

BY Frieze News Desk in News | 22 MAR 19

‘Franz West’, 2019, installation view, Tate Modern, London. Courtesy: Tate; photograph: Luke Walker

Another leading UK arts institution has announced that it will turn down donations from the Sackler family. The Tate’s board of trustees said that it would not accept Sackler money – the news follows London’s National Portrait Gallery’s landmark decision to decline a GBP£1 million Sackler grant. There has been intense criticism over particular Sackler family members’s ownership of Purdue Pharma, manufacturers of the prescription painkiller Oxycontin. The drug is at the centre of several lawsuits, alleging disinformation over its safe consumption, linking it to the US opioid crisis. The Tate has received about GBP£4 million in donations from Sackler trusts in the past, with a GBP£1 million grant in 2015 going towards its new building. Now the Tate has said: ‘In the present circumstances we do not think it right to seek or accept further donations from the Sacklers.’ Tate director Maria Balshaw commented: ‘Reputational issues are something that’s part and parcel of the life of running an organization like this one […] you can’t not think about these issues.’

Artist Kehinde Wiley is launching a new multi-disciplinary artist residency in Dakar. Called Black Rock Senegal, the inaugural edition will run from June 2019 to February 2020. Artists, filmmakers and writers can apply and selected residents will live and work with Wiley at the Black Rock compound for periods of one to three months. Accommodation, studio space and a stipend will be provided. ‘Black Rock stands as the direct answer to my desire to have an uncontested relationship with Africa, the filling in of a large void that I share with many African Americans,’ a statement from Wiley says. The selected artists will be announced in early May. 

Activist group Art Space Sanctuary has urged New York’s Museum of Modern Art and museum trustee Larry Fink to cut investments connected to US private prisons. A Google Docs petition circulating online asks ‘MoMA and its board member Larry Fink to divest from private prison companies, divest from dehumanisation’. Fink, CEO of Blackrock, is reportedly a stakeholder in GEO Group and CoreCivic, which operate private prisons. The museum also relies on Fidelity Investments for pension fund management, a major owner of stock in private prisons. The petition reads: ‘If they are not convinced of the injustice yet, we ask that Larry Fink and the MOMA board meet with concerned artists, community leaders, immigrant rights organizations, and detainees to hear the real story about private prisons.’

Former Artforum employee Amanda Schmitt is appealing the dismissal of her case against the magazine and co-founder and former publisher Knight Landesman. Schmitt’s lawyer, Emily Reisbaum filed an appeal on Monday which contested the New York State Supreme Court Justice decision regarding a lawsuit filed in October 2017, accusing Landesman of sexual harassment and slander. Due to the statute of limitations relating to events that occured during Schmitt’s employment at Artforum between 2009 and 2012, Judge Nervo ruled that the five-year timeframe between her departure and a 2017 confrontational encounter at the centre of the case was ‘sufficient to eliminate any nexus between her employment and the alleged acts.’ The appeal argues that: ‘In dismissing Schmitt’s claims against Respondents – for retaliation, defamation and slander, promissory estoppel, and gross negligence – the lower court failed to credit her allegations, ignored the affidavits she submitted in opposition to Respondents’ motions, made inferences in Respondents’ favor instead of in Schmitt’s, and misapplied the law, leading to this appeal.’

In appointments and awards: The USD$25,000 Roy R. Neuberger Prize goes to artist Yto Barrada; Monika Szewczyk has been named as director of Amsterdam’s De Appel; and India has named Nandalal Bose, Atul Dodiya, GR Iranna, Rummana Hussain, Jitish Kallat, Shakuntala Kulkarni, and Ashim Purkayastha as artists for this year’s Venice Biennale, with the pavilion’s exhibition ‘Our Time for a Future Caring’ curated by New Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.