Artists, Arts Professionals Call on New Museum to Allow Unionization [Updated] - Recent News from USA
Artists, Arts Professionals Call on New Museum to Allow Unionization [Updated] -

Artists, Arts Professionals Call on New Museum to Allow Unionization [Updated] –

Chris Vargas, New Museum in MOTHA drag, 2018, digital image.


In an open letter released on Friday, a group of artists and arts professionals implored the New Museum in New York to let its staff organize a union. The letter, which was first published by Artforum, begins, “We stand in solidarity with the New Museum Union.”

Among the signees of the letter are e-flux founder and restaurateur Anton Vidokle; writer Fred Moten; and artists Nayland Blake, Justin Vivian Bond, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Andrea Fraser, and Chris E. Vargas. (Vargas and his collective MOTHA are currently the subject of a New Museum show.)

The letter refers to museum’s alleged attempts to halt a union effort that is being by led 74 New Museum employees. Representatives from the union organizers told ARTnews last week that the museum had engaged in “fear-mongering” by bringing on the Kentucky-based consulting firm Adams Nash Haskell & Sheridan to halt their unionization. In a release, the union said the museum was leading “a harsh union-busting campaign.” An election for the proposed union is currently set for January 24.

In response to today’s letter, the New Museum released a statement that reads, in part, “When we learned that a group of staff members had petitioned to unionize, we engaged several consultants, including ANHS, to provide an initial assessment and to guide us on working with employees who have multiple viewpoints on the issue. That engagement has concluded. We respect our employees’ right to self-organize and will respect whatever decision they make. We will continue to work together to advance the museum’s special mission.”

The letter follows in full below.

We stand in solidarity with the New Museum Union.

We are troubled by New Museum leadership’s decision to hire an anti-union firm to sow fear and hostility and to misinform both management and staff about the role of unions in the workplace. Intimidation and misinformation do not constitute open engagement with the museum employees. Moreover, such behavior goes against everything that the museum has historically stood for—that is, equity, diversity, and a commitment to institutional responsibility.

We implore New Museum leadership to do the right thing and allow their employees to form a union without interference. We also urge leadership to bargain with the New Museum Union in good faith for a fair contract. Your coworkers are not simply union supporters but devoted colleagues who deeply love and believe in the institution and are fully committed to its future.


Julie Ault, Artist

Andy Bichlbaum, the Yes Men

Claire Bishop, Professor, PhD Program in Art History, CUNY Graduate Center

Hannah Black, Artist

Nayland Blake, Artist, Chair ICP-Bard MFA

Jennifer Bolande, Professor, New Genres, UCLA Dept. of Art

Justin Vivian Bond, Transgenre Artist

Gregg Bordowitz, Artist

A.K. Burns, Artist

Paul Chan, Artist

Howie Chen, Curator

Liz Collins, Artist

Leah DeVun, Associate Professor, Rutgers University (Member, AAUP-AFT Local 06323)

Kimberly Drew, Writer and Independent Curator

Andrea Fraser, Professor and Chair, UCLA Department of Art

Malik Gaines, Artist

Liam Gillick, Artist

The Guerrilla Girls, Artists

Miguel Gutierrez, Artist

House of Ladosha

Sharon Hayes, Artist

Katherine Hubbard, Artist

Juliana Huxtable, Artist

David Joselit, Distinguished Professor, PhD Program in Art History, CUNY Graduate Center

Alhena Katsof, Curator

Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Artist and Writer

Nicole Killian, Artist and Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University

Devin Kenny, Artist

Kate Kraczon, Curator

Molly Larkey, Artist

Simon Leung, Artist and Professor of Art, UC Irvine

Monica Majoli, Artist and Professor, UC Irvine

Yong Soon Min, Professor Emerita, UC Irvine

Fred Moten, Professor, New York University

Carlos Motta, Artist

Gala Porras-Kim, Artist

R.H. Quaytman, Artist

Halsey Rodman, Artist; Co-Chair of Sculpture, Bard MFA; Critic, Yale School of Art, Painting and Printmaking

Martha Rosler, Artist

Alexandro Segade, Artist

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Artist; Visiting Artist Faculty, California Institute for the Arts and Bard Summer MFA

Gregory Sholette, PhD, Professor, Queens College Art Dept, CUNY

Patrick Staff, Artist

Eric A. Stanley, Assistant Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies, UC Berkeley

A.L. Steiner, Artist

Eric Golo Stone, Writer, Artist, and Curator

Lincoln Tobier, Artist, Otis College of Art and Design / SEIU Local 721

Mariana Valencia, Artist

Chris E. Vargas, Artist

Anton Vidokle, Artist and Founder of e-flux

Matt Wolf, Filmmaker

Yellow Jackets Collective

Update, 10:05 p.m.: This post has been updated with a statement that the New Museum made in response to today’s open letter.

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