The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) had planned to open a retrospective on activist artist collective Godzilla in May. However, the collective recently announced that it is withdrawing from the exhibit, citing concerns about the museum’s complicity in the construction of a new jail in New York’s Chinatown.
The new jail is a part of New York’s plan to replace the Rikers Island jail complex with four borough-based jails. One of the proposed jails would be located at 125 White Street in Chinatown. As part of the city’s “community give-back” deal to impacted neighborhoods, MOCA will receive $35 million to fund a permanent home and a performing arts space.
In a letter to the museum signed by 19 members of Godzilla, the collective condemned the museum’s complicity in mass incarceration. “We cannot, in good conscience, entrust the legacy of Godzilla as an artist activist organization, to a cultural institution whose leadership ignores, and even seeks to silence critical voices from its community. The complicity of MOCA’s leadership with the jail plan amounts to supporting the system of mass incarceration and policing that disproportionately affect Black and Brown lives,” the letter read.
In January, MOCA released a statement saying that the institution was opposed to the plan to build a jail in Chinatown. However, Godzilla members say that this is a misrepresentation and that there has been documentation showing that leadership wanted to benefit from the proposed jail.