Guerrilla Girls Cancel Phaidon Book Contract Over Ties to Leon Black
February 03, 2021
Anonymous feminist collective Guerilla Girls have announced that they canceled their book contract with top art publisher Phaidon and have additionally called for its owner, Leon Black, to step down from his post as chair of the board of directors of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Its members cited Black’s long association with convicted sex offender and serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein as the reason, and said that they bowed out of the contract last year on realizing that Black, who bought the company in 2012, was Phaidon’s owner.
“In 2018, the Guerrilla Girls contracted with Phaidon Press to publish our dream book of all our work from 1985 to today: conceptualized, designed and written by us,” the collective’s members said in a statement. “In 2019, the world learned about Black’s extensive and shady dealings with shady pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, before and after Epstein’s conviction for sex trafficking young girls. We decided we could not work with Phaidon.”
Black in January announced that he would be departing as CEO of multimillion-dollar private equity firm Apollo Global Management after an independent investigation of his relationship to Epstein revealed no wrongdoing but found that he had paid Epstein significantly more than expected for financial advice, and had done so in the span of time following Epstein’s 2008 conviction on charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor.
This is the second time the Guerilla Girls have sought to oust Black from the MoMA board; in late 2019, shortly after giving up their contract with Phaidon, the collective joined forces with activist organization Art in Ad Places to install a poster in a phone booth outside the museum calling for Black and fellow board member Glenn Dubin, who was also an associate of Epstein, to be removed from the board and the galleries bearing their names draped in black. Both men have retained their board positions.
“How to explain MoMA’s silence? And why does MoMA tolerate people like Black and Dubin on its board in the first place?” queried the Guerrilla Girls. “If we’re stuck with a system where our tax-exempt, educational institutions have to depend on money from the super rich, they should at least choose board members who make the world a better, not a worse place.”
At the same time that he announced he would be departing Apollo as CEO, Black said that he would pony up $200 million toward women’s initiatives. The Guerilla Girls were dismissive, noting that the amount was equal to roughly 3 percent of the Black family’s wealth and tersely dismissing the donation as “too little, too late.”
Artforum has reached out to Phaidon and to the Museum of Modern Art for comment.