Plans for an art show in Seattle that would have featured work by Amazon and Microsoft employees were canceled after backlash from members of the city’s arts community and others on social media.
The Museum of Museums, located in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, last week issued a call for entries for a show titled “Amazon vs Microsoft.” A picture posted to Instagram for the call featured an illustration of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wearing boxing gloves.
“Amazon and Microsoft together employ over 1.5 million people,” MoM’s Instagram post said. “Besides the extreme wealth that often characterizes these two companies, we believe there is an alternative and equally impressive wealth of artistic talent within their ranks. As an exhibition, Amazon vs Microsoft seeks to highlight and underscore the artists who work in Big Tech and recalibrate the narrative of what a tech worker is.”
The museum said the call for submissions is open to employees regardless of their position at the two tech giants or where in the world they work. The closing date was August 7th, the exhibition is planned for October 7th.
Reaction to the idea was quick and unsupportive, as many seemed to capitalize on the notion that art is a difficult endeavor in Seattle, largely because of tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft and what they’ve been doing in the accessibility and affordability landscape in recent years have done. Comments on Instagram included:
- “It’s disgusting and the reactions are weird. “If we give THEM a platform, maybe they’ll help us and we can start a dialogue.” The dialogue already exists and these companies are not interested.”
- “Massive flop idea, yikes! Imagine if in 2022 you were an art museum that can elevate anyone and we pick… technicians???”
- “As far as I know, there are workers at both companies, but I’m not sure that giving some of the city’s top earners another platform is the right way to go.”
Three days later, the idea was scrapped.
In a new Instagram post Monday, MoM Director Greg Lundgren said the museum is listening, the call for entries has been canceled and “Amazon vs Microsoft” would not be returning in the future.
“I believe that the strongest art ecosystem is also the most inclusive. Tech Bros included,” wrote Lundgren. “Poor people, rich people, people with common ideals and people with strange ideas. All.
“Seattle is getting more expensive by the day and a healthy arts ecosystem in this city requires financial support and lots of it,” he continued. “So yes, once again I tried to connect the disconnected to try to bolster our art economy in the only way I knew how.”
Lundgren said he heard “loud and clear” that the exhibition was not the way to have a conversation “about art, wealth and our city’s future cultural landscape” and that “big tech is not seen as the insurer of our future.” should be health and vitality.”
The Museum of Museums opened in 2020 in a renovated medical building at 900 Boylston Ave. There are formal exhibition spaces, rotating installations, a theater, weekly art classes, pop-ups, and a gift shop.
The museum’s mission, as stated on its website, is “to grow Seattle’s artist population and inspire our local art ecosystem through exhibitions, education, and conversations about the role of the artist, philanthropist, and collector.”
Like many tech companies, Microsoft and Amazon aren’t shy about exhibiting artwork or commissioning pieces and murals for their own office buildings. First founded in 1987, Microsoft’s robust art collection is managed by a team of art consultants.
Amazon hosts an artist-in-residence program designed to support the arts community by providing additional connections for local and emerging artists. The residency offers artists the resources and space to “think big, inspire and create ambitious projects”.