A growing number of leading-edge artists are proving Matisse wrong when he famously said that art is an escape from reality. You have only to look at all the museum exhibitors up in arms about where exhibit halls get their money. The latest protest: eight artists pulled their work from the renowned Biennial at the Whitney Museum owing to its acceptance of financial backing from a manufacturer of munitions and tear gas. And according to WSKG, a PBS station, more and more artists are expected to quit the exhibit in the coming days.

Angry artists

The manufacturer involved is the museum Board of Trustees' vice-chairman Warren B.

Kanders. Artists claim that the weapons have been used against refugees at our southern border, as well as at civilians protesting in Gaza. One of the exhibit examples withdrawn from the show --Triple-Chaser-- points to Kander's business in frightful footage of a protesting Palestinian getting gunned down. The museum show, what's left of it, closes Sept. 22.

Picking patrons

Other targets of artists' activism against museum benefactors ie the Sackler family that sponsors multiple museum exhibits such as the Metropolitan Musem of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution. The Sacklers makes OxyContin, which plays a part in the opioid crisis. Noted artist Nan Goldin, well-known to have had a "narrow" escape from addition, organized a group called Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN) to deal with the epidemic.

Acting out

And last year, in a performance art exhibit at the Louvre, several artists challenged the museum's choice of sponsor --an oil company-- out of concern for climate change. The artists' demonstration consisted of prostrating themselves on the museum floor directly under The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault. The painting portrays sailors either dead or dying after their ship sank.

The artists' message was that planet earth is, likewise adrift, is headed for extinction.

Moral dilemma

What we have here, then, are artists applying a purity test to those who fund museum shows. There's a historic inevitability that doms such activism because the greatest wealth among patrons come by fortunes made in big earning industries.

For example, according to Revenue and Profits (R&P), the biggest money-makers are the pharmaceuticals, which accounts for why the Sacklers could be able to pay out millions to so many museums. Theirs is a billion-dollar industry, after all. All of which suggests that artists acting out grievances against such a benefactor can have unexpected consequences = slim pickings for museum shows.

Not Michelangelo

I can't help thinking of Michelangelo who surely had cause to grouse about the way his sponsors, the Medici banking family, made their fortune with usury fees. But without their support what would have happened to him if the bankers didn't take him in as a teen. He also had reason to balk another of his sponsor, Pope Julius II, who historian Barbara Tuchman assessed in her Book "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam" caused the Protestant Reform. Michelangelo was a devout Catholic, after all. Had he balked, would the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes be commissioned? Something to think about.