Last night, below a sky colored orange by Canadian wildfires, a small group of climate activists gathered at the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) annual Party in the Garden fundraising event. The target of their demonstration was the institution’s board chair, Marie-Josée Kravis, whose husband, Henry Kravis, owns a private equity firm heavily invested in the oil and gas sectors.
Protestors arrived with a 20-foot-tall, hand-made oil rig, on top of which was a recreation of a painting of a gas station on fire by artist Ed Ruscha, one of the gala’s honorees. Superimposed over the artwork was the phrase: “MoMA Drop Kravis.” Demonstrators also carried a banner with the same slogan, and belted chants of “We need clean air, not another billionaire,” and “Henry Kravis you can’t hide, we charge you with ecocide,” according to .
— New York Communities for Change (@nychange) June 7, 2023
Henry Kravis, whose net worth tops $7 billion, per Forbes, is the co-founder and co-executive chairman of KKR, one of the five largest private equity firms in the world. The firm is a major stakeholder in the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, a controversial project opposed by environmental activists and leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, whose land would be impacted by construction.
Amnesty International has condemned the pipeline, saying it poses a threat of “serious human rights violations” to the Wet’suwet’en and other indigenous land defenders.
Marie-Josée Kravis has served on MoMA’s board since 1994. She was elected chair in 2021, succeeding Leon Black, a museum trustee who was himself the subject of numerous protests.
It’s the perfect day to do this. Solidarity sent.
— Proudly one of The Blacks (@MicheleGillia17) June 7, 2023
Tuesday’s demonstration was organized by several activist groups, including Climate Organizing Hub, New York Communities for Change, and Reclaim Our Tomorrow. At MoMA’s entrance, members handed out fliers with a QR code that directed to an open letter.
“While the MoMA promises to ‘lead on sustainability,’ they have no problem doing business with climate criminals like Henry Kravis who are funding the death and displacement of millions,” the letter reads.
“We live in a time where institutions are being held accountable for their associations with people who are causing harm,” the missive went on. “By putting the Kravis name up in lights, you are supporting the injustices caused by KKR. We are calling on you to sever ties with this billionaire who is destroying the world.”
POV: you’re at the MoMA gala seeing a huge projection demanding that the MoMA drop climate criminal Henry Kravis
As smoke filled NYC bc of climate change induced wildfires, the MoMA chose to honor the people burning our planet
— Reclaim Our Tomorrow (@reclaimourtmrw) June 7, 2023
Representatives from MoMA did not immediately return Artnet News’s request for comment on Tuesday’s protest or the activists’ open letter.
This is not the first time institution’s Garden Party has drawn protests. In 2018, MoMA workers gathered at the event to protest ongoing contract negotiations with the museum. In 2022, employees from Starbucks used the gala to rally against the coffee chain’s chairwoman, Mellody Hobson, who was honored that year.