Few art books receive the same amount of attention as Laura Raicovich’s newly released Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest. Vogue, Frieze, Hyperallergic, and Artnews recently profiled her and the book. At a recent talk centered on the book at the Brooklyn Library with writer and art historian Aruna D’Souza, she discussed why museums are at the center of political debates and what to do to change their problematic role.
Raicovich is uniquely qualified to speak on this subject. In 2017 she resigned from her role as the Executive Director of the Queens Museum, citing political differences with more conservative board members. Among other contentious issues, the board debated the museum’s decision to cancel an event held by the Israeli government to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the nation’s founding and its closing on January 20th in solidarity with progressive activists organizing an art strike in protest of Trump’s inauguration.
As Raicovich explained recently to Observer, the misunderstanding that cultural centers must maintain neutrality rests in our understanding of non-profit status as determined by IRS 501c3 guidelines. “If you look at the IRS code about what requirements you have as a not-for-profit institution, to maintain your tax-exempt status, you cannot lobby for a particular piece of legislation, and you cannot lobby for a particular candidate,” she explains. “But there’s this general perception that to maintain your 501(c)(3) status, you have to stay away from so-called political positions. The assumption in that statement is that what is currently in the museum or the cultural space is somehow neutral. It is not.”