TUCSON, Ariz., Oct. 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Artist Leah Schrager has resigned from MOCA-Tucson’s Board of Directors after the museum shared an Instagram post that mentioned Israel’s “settler colonial oppression” and its “genocide of Palestinian peoples on occupied lands.” Shortly after resigning, Schrager announced the founding of The Museum for Non-Political Art, or MONA, whose mission is to fund and show art that is curated, discussed, and presented without any concern for or reference to the politics of the art or artist. It can be found at monaworld.org.
“I moved to Tucson after living in NYC for 14 years in the hopes of finding an art scene that hasn’t been over-run by politics, but unfortunately I’ve learned it’s the same everywhere. Art should unite us, yet this country’s arts institutions divide us by choosing art based on its politics while pretending they’re unbiased. Now, to use their own language, I am calling for American arts institutions to be decolonized of political advocacy.”
Schrager’s decision joins a string of controversies at universities in recent days. Donors to Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania are cutting their ties to the schools in protest of administrators’ response to speeches and events on campuses in the wake of Hamas’s terror attacks.
But the response, or lack of, to the attacks is now resounding through the art world as well. The Instagram account, A Hug From the Art World, run by Adam Cohen, director at Gagosian Gallery, recently posted, “the unequivocal silence of my collective arts community is deafening #neveragain.” Further, in an “Open Letter from the Art Community to Cultural Organizations,” published in Art Forum last week, thousands of artists signed their names in support of the Palestinians while denouncing Israel.
Yet as MONA’s Instagram points out, “while many institutions have declined to speak out against the massacre of over 1400 Israelis by hiding behind claims that they don’t comment on politics, those same institutions spoke out ceaselessly on the single death of George Floyd.” Schrager believes this double standard needs to come to light: “People think they’re giving to arts organizations but are in fact giving to political organizations fronting as arts organizations. MONA’s mission will be to encourage institutions to admit this so donors can see where their money is going.”
According to Schrager, the reason this time is the “emperor has no clothes” moment and is different from Black Lives Matter is telling. With BLM, donors and artists were united, so arts organizations broadcast their views. Now, the organizations are caught in the middle. “The vast majority of artists are anti-Israel, but a significant number of deep-pocketed donors are pro-Israel. Hence the sudden and deceptive assertions by these organizations that they are non-political,” Schrager says.
MONA’s mission makes clear that all sides should be free to express themselves, but the organization was founded to call attention to the fact that arts institutions overwhelmingly support one side on any given issue through their endemic curation of radical left creators and that this bias is contributing to the fracturing of American democracy. “In my view, the systemic failure of these institutions whose objective should be to engage all Americans in the transcendent experience of art is edging toward the criminal,” Schrager says.
As Schrager points out, “the multi-billion-dollar arts funding machine has financed only one side for decades, resulting in the current predicament. Arts organizations in America have become Democratic party money-laundering fronts that funnel cash into the hands of liberal artists while silencing and ending the careers of those who think differently. That’s why I started MONA. It’s what the art world, and the world in general, needs now.
Schrager hopes that MONA events and shows will begin popping up across the country and that the MONA movement will instigate a seismic art world shift. The MONA website clarifies some specifics of this shift: “Artistic directors will be hired because they present the universal, not the political, in art. Artists will be chosen for their aesthetic skill, not for their place in identity politics. And true diversity and inclusion will become the norm for arts institutions, as Americans of all ideological stripes feel welcome, heard, and represented.”
“I was aware of how arts organizations had become political action committees, and it had always bothered me because I think art should offer a contemplative refuge from the ever-present noise of politics, but the way in which they all handled the Israeli massacre pushed me to the brink,” says Schrager. “My mission is now to support non-political art through MONA, and since we can finally all see the current art world for what it is, I hope others will join me.”
SOURCE Museum of Non-Political Art