Beleaguered financier Leon Black has been in talks with the trustees of the Museum of Modern Art about his future with the museum in light of disturbing details about his ties to convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, The Post learned.
Several MoMA trustees have approached Black, the co-founder and CEO of Apollo Global Management, to step down as the museum’s president when his term ends on July 1, according to two sources with knowledge of the talks.
To complicate matters, the sources said, is whether Black will remain on the board if he leaves the position of president. The billionaire owner of precious artworks like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” has been a member of the MoMA board since 1997.
If the museum severed its ties with Black, who was elected president in 2018, it could jeopardize his access to his unique collection, including Raphael’s drawing “Head of a Young Apostle” that Black bought for a time. a record $ 47.9 million in 2013, a source said.
“Remember, if MoMA fires Black, you will lose an opportunity in your personal art collection,” this person said.
Another source denied that Black, a philanthropist and art lover, would deprive the historic museum of its collection even if he was no longer a member of its 50-plus board of directors.
The talks come as the museum comes under fire from prominent artists like Ai Weiwei and photographer Nan Goldin after news broke in January that Black paid Epstein $ 158 million for estate planning and tax advice following Epstein’s guilty plea. in 2008 for requesting the prostitution of an adolescent.
Goldin told The Post that he will not show his work at MoMA even as he searches for a venue in New York for a retrospective that began at the National Portrait Gallery in London before traveling to Europe.
“I told the museum director that he cannot offer my exhibition to MoMA while Leon Black is there,” said Goldin, who played a role in lobbying other prominent art organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Tate. in London, to cut ties with the Sackler family behind the addictive pain reliever OxyContin.
“I would love to perform at MoMA, but you have to stick to your ethics,” he said. “How can MoMA support Leon Black, a man aligned with Jeffrey Epstein who was responsible for teen sex trafficking?”
Epstein committed suicide in prison a month after being arrested a second time in 2019 and charged with running a sex trafficking operation involving dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14.
Black has not been charged with any crime. But his dazzling payments to a convicted sex offender appear to have accelerated his decision to hand over the Apollo CEO job to co-founder Marc Rowan in July. Black will remain president.
When the payments were disclosed in January by a law firm Apollo hired amid pressure from investors, Black forwarded the letter of apology he had written to Apollo investors to the MoMA board of directors. He concluded the letter by saying, “I hope to see you at our February board meeting,” according to the New York Times.
A source close to the MoMA board told The Post that the story “rubbed people the wrong way” given the seriousness of the situation. “After all, he had to resign as CEO of Apollo.”
Since then, the modern art museum has twice delayed its planned board meeting to February, first in mid-March and then at the end of March, the sources said. MoMA has confirmed the delays, but insisted that the repeated rescheduling has nothing to do with Black.
“The Board rescheduled its meeting from February to March to allow its finance committees more time to address some important issues before presenting them to the full Board for consideration,” said spokeswoman Amanda Hicks. She declined to comment on whether the board members have been negotiating with Black about his future there.
Sources say that if a decision is made, it could be announced as soon as the next meeting.
Of course, Black is not the only administrator at MoMA with ties to Black. Trustee Glenn Dubin and his wife Eva had a personal relationship with Epstein before and after his 2008 conviction, and MoMA has named a gallery in his honor. Artists like Guerrilla Girls have also called for Dubin to resign.
Black declined to comment. Dubin, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, also declined to comment.
A MoMA trustee who was not involved in the current talks personally supports keeping Black as president, saying he has been helping to steer the museum through a difficult financial situation.
“We are going through very difficult times financially and he has handled it brilliantly,” said the trustee. “Leon has been extremely good to the museum and takes his work seriously. I hope he gets over this. “
The administrator also dismissed protests by artists such as Goldin and Ai as “extremely political.”
“I really believe that MoMA is not an institution of social change, it is a museum,” said the administrator. “No one has yet sent him to the gallows and I hope he will not hang.”
As The Post previously reported, Black vowed not to cause trouble when he took office in 2018 in place of Jerry Speyer, who served as president for 11 years.
“And you know when Leon is in charge, you know he will keep us out of disasters, because that guy keeps up with all the modern masters,” sang Black in front of his art friends in the palatial, four-story Renaissance-style house. . owns an old art gallery on the Upper East Side.