MoMA Shutters as 500+ Protesters Infiltrate Atrium in Support of Palestine

Organizers unveiled a banner that read “MoMA Trustees Fund Genocide, Apartheid, and Settler Colonialism.”

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. By some organizers’ estimates, more than 800 activists filled the museum.

Co-organized by several advocacy groups and activists, 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.

The organizers called out MoMA trustees’ alleged financial ties to financial and corporate investments in Israeli military efforts.

A pamphlet handed out by activists.

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.

A 27-year-old illustrator and printmaker from Queens who participated in the sit-in and asked to remain anonymous told Hyperallergic that they learned about the protest on social media. “Our taxes are already going to genocide,” they said. “The best thing that can come from this is people canceling their memberships to MoMA and boycotting until the museum divests from board members who fund genocide.”

“The museum should be a place for us New Yorkers, and a majority of us aren’t on board with funding genocide,” the artist continued. “Cancel your museum memberships, don’t pay for the $30 ticket.”

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, and a man outside began repeatedly screaming “Fuck the Palestinians,” as the line outside began to thin out. Another man exasperatedly congratulated the organizers handing out flyers for “getting the job done.”

The museum closed its galleries to the public at around 3:45pm.

Protesters wave signs in a show of solidarity with Palestine in front of the Brooklyn Museum. (photo Maya Pontone/Hyperallergic)

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.

At MoMA, banners were launched from the viewing ledges, suspended alongside artist Carolina Caycedo’s current display of fishing net sculptures.