The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Manhattan unexpectedly closed its galleries to the public at around 3:45pm Saturday, February 10, after over 500 pro-Palestinian protesters took over the building’s second-floor atrium for a massive demonstration.
Co-organized by several advocacy groups and activists who staged a previous December 27 action at John F. Kennedy Airport, the demonstration included a variety of tactics. Starting at 3:30pm, organizers split up to distribute over 1,000 custom-printed imitation MoMA pamphlets calling out five museum trustees — Leon Black, Larry Fink, Paula Crown, Marie-Josée Kravis, and Ronald S. Lauder — and their alleged financial and corporate investments into Israeli military weaponry, surveillance technology, and “conservative values.” Shortly afterwards, hundreds of demonstrators began a sit-in in the atrium.
A group of demonstrators unveiled a banner from the second floor overlooking the museum’s lobby and rear exit that read “MoMA Trustees Fund Genocide, Apartheid, and Settler Colonialism” for people on the first floor to view.
From the third and fifth floors, additional banners — calling for an immediate ceasefire, a free Palestine, and for all prisons to be emptied — were launched from the viewing ledges, suspended alongside artist Carolina Caycedo’s current display of fishing net sculptures.
“Free, free Palestine,” chanted protesters after the signs were unveiled, followed by a group reading of a passage from the imitation pamphlet addressed to visitors that elaborated on the premise of the protest and the decision to criticize the museum specifically.
Within less than 15 minutes, MoMA security closed the galleries, began turning away people who wanted to enter, and allowed visitors to exit. Members of the press were allowed into the building at approximately 4:45pm.
The MoMA sit-in finished at around 5:10pm, after which the remaining demonstrators filed out of the museum and began marching uptown. Among the six squad cars that were onsite upon exit, dozens of would-be MoMA visitors were lined up outside the museum waiting for access. Three security staff members confirmed with Hyperallergic that the museum was closed for the rest of the evening while organizers passed out remaining pamphlets to the people waiting outside.
Many people were confused about the museum remaining closed with an hour and a half left in the day after the demonstration dispersed. A man outside began repeatedly screaming “fuck the Palestinians” as the line outside began to thin out, while another man congratulated the organizers handing out flyers for “getting the job done.”
Today’s action at MoMA coincided with another demonstration that drew over 300 people outside the Brooklyn Museum, organized by Within Our Lifetime Palestine (WOL Palestine). At least four protesters were arrested there, as confirmed by Hyperallergic on the scene.
Both actions also happened at the same time as the release of an open letter signed by more than 100 NYC cultural workers from organizations including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Studio Museum protesting the “the disgraceful silence of our institutions as Israel commits genocide in Gaza.”
“While the museums and cultural institutions of our city claim to hold commitments to justice, social action, and equity, their silence has rendered them complicit in the killing of over 27,000 people in Palestine, with thousands more trapped under rubble from bombings since October 7, 2023,” the letter reads.
MoMA has not yet responded to Hyperallergic‘s request for comment.