“Awkward, more like performance art than a traditional protest..."
Artwashing Wonderful™️ Climate Criminals, Part II
A few days after we crashed the red carpet at the LACMA Gala, we hit another museum in Los Angeles. The Hammer. It’s also been doing its part to artwash the climate crimes of Lynda and Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaires behind the pistachio boom that’s been draining California rivers and aquifers. And this time our protest made the news.
Here is how Hyperallergic correspondent Matt Stromberg described the scene:
LOS ANGELES — “The Hammer Museum artwashes climate criminals!” shouted Yasha Levine through a megaphone in the middle of the institution’s courtyard yesterday, November 8. He and Evgenia Kovda, his wife, were there to stage a two-person protest targeting Lynda and Stewart Resnick, whose $30 million donation, the largest in the Hammer’s history, made possible a recent expansion and renovation dubbed the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Cultural Center.
But while the Resnicks may be best known for their philanthropy in Angeleno cultural circles, their vast orchards in California’s Central Valley require immense amounts of water, more than all the homes in Los Angeles combined. And it is their water use, and its environmental impacts, that were behind this action as well as another last Saturday outside of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), to which the Resnicks donated $45 million for a namesake exhibition pavilion.
Both the LACMA and Hammer demonstrations were admittedly small, attended only by Levine and Kovda, and somewhat awkward, more like performance art than a traditional protest. But they come in the wake of a much larger exposé on the Resnicks, a forthcoming documentary titled Pistachio Wars that Levine has been working on for the better part of a decade with his filmmaking partner Rowan Wernham.
…Levine, a journalist who was researching the financial crisis of 2007–2008, traveled to California towns where the cycle of cheap mortgages, rapid development, and subsequent foreclosures had played out. In these new developments and subdivisions on the edge of California sprawl, he found that water — how to get it, from where, and from whom — was a major problem.
“How did a handful of people manage to control so much water? The deeper I got into this story, Lynda and Stewart were at the center of it,” Levine told Hyperallergic.
Why are we targeting the Resnicks? As I wrote earlier, they’re big donors in the LA art world and they’ve been trying to artwash their rep.
Aside from LACMA, the Resnicks are the biggest benefactors to Hammer, an art museum Westwood. Originally founded by Armand Hammer, it is part of UCLA. Now it’s been rebranded as the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Cultural Center at Hammer. The reason for their generosity is pretty transparent. The Resnicks are hoping to associate their name with a cool art and cultural scene. They want to elevate their image and reputation, to make themselves out to be something other than what they really are: ridiculously wealthy people obsessed with growing richer by expanding their pistachio empire in California’s Central Valley, and doing it by destroying rivers and whatever’s left of the natural environmental.
I don’t think most people are aware of the depth of the ecological crisis that California is in right now. Most of the state’s rivers are effectively lifeless. Dozens of fish species, birds, and even orcas are all under threat. A mass extinction is in process — largely because of oligarch farmers like the Resnicks. This is an issue that we address in our upcoming documentary…
That’s what we went to Hammer to explain: these are the oligarchs Hammer is helping protect. And for pennies, too. Thirty million dollars isn’t much for a couple that’s worth billions — all of it is tax deductible, too.
Check out the Hyperallergic article about our protest and watch a few videos below. One thing you’ll quickly see in these videos is apathy — apathy and dissociation. Most people don’t care at all, can’t be even bothered to look up from their phones. Although we did get a few thumbs up from Hammer employees. They’re with us against their bosses.
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