The Chase Advantage by Hans Haacke

The Location of Power

By Lauren van Haaften-Schick

“Give Yourself the Chase Advantage” was the slogan used by Chase Manhattan Bank in the late 1970s. At the time Hans Haacke’s work The Chase Advantage was made, the bank had been collecting art for display in its offices and as a company asset for over fifteen years, in addition to supporting numerous museum exhibitions, establishing itself as a force in the turn towards corporate sponsorship for art that had begun a decade prior. 1 By the mid-1980s North American museums had become dependent on major global corporations, trading “promotion for patronage,” 2 and today that practice is widely becoming the norm among art institutions throughout the world. Corporate logos and positivist slogans now regularly grace the walls of museum entrances, and their pervasiveness has become as deceptively neutral as the white wall itself. If these are the given conditions that artists must find themselves in if they are to attain visibility in art institutions, what strategies remain to insert a critique of the financial and art “apparatus” their work is threaded through? 3

Hans Haacke’s contestation of the framework and ideology of that apparatus proposes some ways that it might be undermined, exploited, and held accountable. One tactic is the artist’s “devotion to factual accuracy,” 4 described by Benjamin Buchloh, Howard S. Becker and John Walton as a strategy of providing irrefutable, publicly accessible information about the context the artist’s work responds to and inhabits, resulting in the implication – though not a direct conclusion – of a theory “about the exercise of power in the art world.” 5 Crucially, Haacke should not be imagined as a “political martyr”; 6 instead, his work must be considered dialectical in its insistence on inhabiting the system and aesthetic of programmatic governmentality, and investigating all nodes that make up (to borrow the artist’s term) the total “industry” of art. 7 For John A. Tyson, Haacke’s method also possesses a ‘parasitic’ capacity, wherein his works are able to “slightly reprogram their hosts, causing them to transmit politically charged messages,” which constantly remind us of a “para-site” outside the literal frame, made visible through the work’s insistence upon connecting content and context. 8 This potential for Haacke’s works to “reprogram” their support systems is amplified by Rosalyn Deutsche’s observation that his strategies can also be considered as transforming “aesthetic space into one where power [can] be questioned,” and repositioning the art audience as “a public capable of giving itself the right to politics.” 9 Within the right to politics is the right to insist on political fact becoming public knowledge, which Haacke’s archeology of evidence demands.

Tracing the elements of the publicity rhetoric and commodity aesthetic appropriated in The Chase Advantage demonstrates this strategy in action. Surrounded by the graphic logo of the bank is David Rockefeller, who in 1976 was the Chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank and Vice Chairman of the Museum of Modern Art. 10 On the wall behind him hangs a painting by Victor Vasarely that belongs to the Chase art collection. 11 To Rockefeller’s left we encounter a publicity statement attributed to him, claiming that for the bank’s conviction in the “corporate commitment to excellence in all fields… the art program has been a profitable investment.” On his right is a quote from the public relations consultant Ivy L. Lee, stating that the fundamental purpose of publicity policies must be “to induce the people to believe in the sincerity and honesty of purpose of the management of the company which is asking for their confidence.” Lee was hired by John D. Rockefeller Jr. after the Ludlow Massacre of 1914, in which over forty striking coal miners and their families were killed in an armed assault; John D. Rockefeller was majority owner of the mining company. 12All of this information – visual and textual – resides within a series of nested frames that telescope outwards once their linkages have been mapped in the mind of the viewer. The contours of the art object follow those of the bank’s hexagonal logo, within which its slogan calls us to embrace “the Chase advantage,” defined implicitly in Rockefeller’s statement below promoting a philosophy that even intangibles can have a “money value.” In the background, Vasarely’s abstraction looms over the banker as an emblem of art’s instrumentalization under late capitalism.

Haacke’s formal mimicry of Chase bank’s branding and publicity performs a subversive act of “paracitation,” to borrow Tyson’s term, quoting the corporation’s recognizable visual identity in order to “interrupt flows of information and produce short-circuits – giving spectators pause for reflection.” 13 Here Haacke’s parody takes on an even sharper edge once we consider the total history encompassed within the pair of appropriated publicity statements and the sites and sources of their utterances. At their juxtaposition lies the history of violence against labor, and the capacity of capital to reduce anything – including aggression and “good will” – to an abstract value. Re-presenting the “truth” narrative advertised by corporate power back to itself, Haacke undertakes a “systemic and successfully executed project of delegitimation,” 14 reclaiming (partially at least) the public forum of art from the “managers” who preside over it, and demonstrating that social and political fact can be leveraged in order to demand accountability, in service of protecting democratic politics in an open agonistic sphere. 15

Pointing to the corporate affiliations and financial ties of museums was introduced as a key strategy for Haacke in the work MoMA Poll of 1970. 16 Exhibited in the first room of the landmark exhibition Information at MoMA, the poll asked visitors to place a ballot in a “yes” or a “no” box recording their answer to the question of whether Governor Rockefeller’s failure to denounce President Nixon’s war in Vietnam would impact their vote for his reelection. 17 Governor Rockefeller, like his brother David Rockefeller, was a member of the museum’s board of trustees at the time. As Deutsche has deftly mapped, David was a central figure in maneuvering bank and government power in the ensuing years, leading to the formation in 1973 of the Trilateral Commission, an organization whose goal was to bring about a new world order led by the liberal democracies of North American, western Europe, and Japan. One of the commission’s reports considered the future “governability of democracy,” and concluded that, following the political protests of the 1960s, financial and government hierarchical authority must be restored by “a return to passivity on the part of the people.” 18 Now over forty years past this dawn of the “deep state,” where democratic governments are themselves governed by the influence of major banks, Haacke’s demand for public knowledge of the truth behind power rises in urgency. At the same time, the thick entanglements of art, financial, and political power have only increased in their complexity.

Today, JPMorgan Chase & Co. is the largest bank in the United States, with extensive international interests, $1,602,352M in Domestic Assets and $2,118,497M in Consolidated Assets. 19 President and CEO of the bank, Jamie Dimon, is an advisor in President Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum. Also in the Forum is Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Inc., the largest asset manager in the world, currently overseeing $5.15 trillion in assets; as of January 2017, $1 trillion of the funds managed by BlackRock are now under the custodianship of JPMorgan Chase. 20 Fink is on the Board of Trustees for the Museum of Modern Art, and in 2016 he received the David Rockefeller Award, presented annually by MoMA to “an individual from the business community who exemplifies enlightened generosity and effective advocacy of cultural and civic endeavors.” In MoMA’s 2006 expansion, the portion of the museum housing their exhibition spaces was named the Peggy and David Rockefeller Building. When on view, Haacke’s works in MoMA’s collection will be exhibited in that building. Returning to Deutsche and Tyson’s observations concerning the potential for Haacke’s work to claim a “democratic” sphere, made possible by its ‘parasitic’ inhabitation within the art institution and art industry, there is one more layer within this archeology of power relations that is worth exposing. Since 1971, Haacke has sold his work using The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, a contract written by curator/dealer of Conceptual art Seth Siegelaub and lawyer Robert Projansky that enables artists to retain a radically high level of control over the exhibition, reproduction, and resale of their work. 21 Copies of the Siegelaub-Projansky Agreement reside in various collections in the museum’s archive holdings, and when MoMA acquired Haacke’s work The Solomon R. Guggenheim Board of Trustees (1974) in 2011 as part of the Herman and Nicole Daled Collection, the museum became a signatory to its governing contract. 22 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Board of Trustees traces family memberships and corporate directorships of the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation to reveal the political implications of their financial interests. The most extensive list of connections is tied to the Kennecott Copper Company, revealing that two museum trustees and one Guggenheim family member served on its board; At the time, the corporation controlled a large share of Chile’s copper mines, and had been denounced by President Salvatore Allende for draining the country’s resources before he was overthrown in a coup in 1973. The piece was created following the cancellation of Haacke’s 1971 solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which was censored on the grounds that three works concerning “real-time social systems” – two of which displayed publicly available information revealing the corruption of major New York real estate owners and slumlords – were inappropriately political for the museum’s definition of art. 23 As Deutsche has observed, Haacke’s presentation of the deeply interwoven relations between the managers of the museum and the forces of economic power behind major industry can be read as a direct challenge to the Guggenheim’s assertion that the political has no place in an art museum. Instead, Haacke reveals that the inverse is irrefutably true: political and financial power is embedded within its total infrastructure. 24

Perhaps the most enduring aspect of Haacke’s overall strategy emerges as the network of power relations it exposes expand and shift over time, so that as the work circulates through the art institutional network it accumulates new layers of critique. MoMA’s acquisition of the Daled collection (including Haacke’s work) was made possible in part with funds from some of the most aggressive real estate developers in New York, leading us back to the original controversy spurring the piece. Here we find demonstrated the dialectical nature of this entire exercise: the project of reflecting power back to itself can take the form of a viral co-habitation with the subject of its critique, but endemic to that proximity is the risk of subsumption by the subject of that critique. 25 Yet stored away in files and boxes behind the museum’s walls, the latent presence of the Siegelaub-Projansky Agreement accompanying The Solomon R. Guggenheim Board of Trustees, signed by Haacke and MoMA’s representatives, serves as a reminder that claiming a right to politics may take many forms, though evidence of it may take time to unfold. As editions of The Chase Advantage are transferred or sold and re-sold, the Siegelaub-Projansky Agreement is the legal instrument that will record and confirm those transactions. Whether or not the work is exchanged, the specter of the Agreement covering The Chase Advantage maintains the work’s total critique as residing not only in that which is reflected in its visible text and image, but in the mobilization of the total work as an instrument itself, capable of exposing and effecting the political and financial infrastructure as it accretes the marks of its movement through that system.


The author would like to thank Hans Haacke, Paolo Cirio, Imani Brown, Abram Coetsee, Kenneth Pietrobono, Annie Racugglia, and John Tyson for their invaluable comments.

  1. Brian Wallis, “Institutions Trust Institutions,” in Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business, ed. Hans Haacke, Rosalyn Deutsche, and Brian Wallis (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1986), p. 51.
  2. Ibid., p. 53.
  3. In an interview from 1972 Robert Smithson observed that artists are “alienated” from the value of their work, and that the focus of artists in the 1970s will turn towards “the investigation of the apparatus the artist is threaded through.” Bruce Kurtz, “Conversation with Robert Smithson (1972),” in Robert Smithson, the Collected Writings, by Robert Smithson, ed. Jack D. Flam (University of California Press, 1996), 262–69. Quoted in Craig Owens, “From Work to Frame, or Is There Life After ‘The Death of the Author,’” in Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992, p. 122.
  4. Benjamin. H. D. Buchloh, “Hans Haacke: Memory and Instrumental Reason,” in Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000), p. 205.
  5. Howard S. Becker and John Walton, “Social Science and the Work of Hans Haacke,” in Framing and Being Framed: 7 Works, 1970-75, by Hans Haacke (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975), p. 150.
  6. Buchloh, “Hans Haacke: Memory and Instrumental Reason,” p. 206.
  7. See generally: Hans Haacke, “Museums, Managers of Consciousness,” in Deutsche et. al., Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business, p. 60. Also quoted in Craig Owens, “From Work to Frame, or Is There Life After ‘The Death of the Author,’” p. 134.
  8. John A. Tyson, “The Context as Host: Hans Haacke’s Art of Textual Exhibition,” Word & Image 31, no. 3 (July 2015): 213, 224.
  9. Deutsche references Etienne Balibar’s notion of the “right to politics” as “a right of all to constitute a social sphere and to put it at risk.” ibid., p. 34. See: Etienne Balibar, ed., “Rights of Man” and “Rights of the citizen”: The Modern Dialectic of Equality and Freedom’, in Masses, Classes, Ideas: Studies on Politics and Philosophy Before and After Marx (New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 49.
  10. In 1976 David Rockefeller held 4% of Chase’s shares, and numerous other members of the Rockefeller family had major financial stakes in the company. Hans Haacke, “The Chase Advantage,” in Deutsche et. al., Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business, p. 176.
  11. Buchloh describes Vasarely as an example of an artist whose work has succumbed to the volatility of the art market. See: Buchloh, “Hans Haacke: Memory and Instrumental Reason,” p. 204.
  12. The mining company was the Colorado Iron and Fuel Company. Haacke, “The Chase Advantage,” in Deutsche et. al., Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business, p. 176.
  13. Tyson, “The Context as Host: Hans Haacke’s Art of Textual Exhibition,” p. 221.
  14. Buchloh, “Hans Haacke: Memory and Instrumental Reason,” p. 226.
  15. I follow Chantal Mouffe’s description of agonism as a democratic form not of consensus but of conflict, debate, and strategic alliance. See: Chantal Mouffe, “Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism,” Social Research; New York 66, no. 3 (Fall 1999): 745–58. John A. Tyson also applies this concept to the work of Haacke in Tyson, “The Context as Host: Hans Haacke’s Art of Textual Exhibition,” p. 213.
  16. Rosalyn Deutsche, “Hans Haacke and the Art of Not Being Governed Quite So Much,” p. 30, 33.
  17. Text of MoMA Poll (1970): “Question: Would the fact that Governor Rockefeller has not denounced President Nixon’s Indochina policy be a reason for you not to vote for him in November” “Answer: If ‘yes’ please cast your ballot into the left box, if ‘no’ into the right box.
  18. Rosalyn Deutsche, “Hans Haacke and the Art of Not Being Governed Quite So Much,” p. 30, 33.
  19. Wells Fargo & Co ranks 2nd with $1,686,690M in Domestic and $1,740,819M in Consolidated Assets. See: “Insured U.S.-Chartered Commercial Banks That Have Consolidated Assets of $300 Million or More, Ranked by Consolidated Assets as of September 30, 2016.” (Federal Reserve Statistical Release, September 30, 2016). (Accessed March 16, 2017).
  20. Emily Glazer and Justin Baer, J.P. Morgan to Become Custodian for $1 Trillion in BlackRock Assets, Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2017, sec. Markets.; Occupy Museums, “Debtfair: A Project of Occupy Museums,” 2017. At the time of this writing, JPMorgan Chase is also the subject of critique in Debtfair, a project of Occupy Museums, on view within the Whitney Biennial 2017, of which Chase is a sponsor. The project collects and presents data on the financial debt conditions of artists and how those networked relationships connect to the financial industry’s control of culture and the economy.
  21. For additional writing on the Siegelaub-Projansky Agreement and Haacke’s use of the document see: Maria Eichhorn, The Artist’s Contract, ed. Gerti Fietzek (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2009).; Lauren van Haaften-Schick, “Contract as Form and Concept: The Siegelaub-Projansky Agreement in Art and Law,” in Intellectual Property and Visual/Digital Culture (Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, Eighteenth Annual Conference, Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington, DC, 2015).; Jeanine Tang, “Future Circulations: On the Work of Hans Haacke and Maria Eichhorn,” in Provenance: An Alternate History of Art, ed. Gail Feigenbaum and Inge Reist (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2013), 173–96. John Tyson, “Hans Haacke: Beyond Systems Aesthetics,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Emory University, 2015), pp. 308-309). The Agreement is available online through Primary Information
  22. Herman Daled assisted Siegelaub with the French translation of the Agreement, and with its distribution in Europe.
  23. Haacke’s controversial works were Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971, 1971; Sol Goldman and Alex DiLorenzo Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971, 1971; and a visitor’s poll that would tabulate their responses to demographic questions, resulting in sociological information about the status and class make up of exhibition attendees.
  24. This argument was central in the public defense by museum leadership concerning the cancellation of Haacke’s 1971 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and the censorship of Haacke’s Manet-PROJEKT ’74 at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum/Museum Ludwig in Cologne in 1974. See: Rosalyn Deutsche, “Property Values: Hans Haacke, Real Estate, and the Museum,” in Deutsche et. al., Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business, pp. 20–37.; Hans Haacke and Edward F Fry, Hans Haacke: Werkmonographie (Köln: M. DuMont Schauberg, 1972); Hans Haacke, “Provisional Remarks,” (1971) in Institutional Critique: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, ed. Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, 2009, 120–28.; Hans Haacke, “Manet-Projekt ’74,” in Deutsche et. al., Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business, pp. 119–34.
  25. On the notion of artist’s contracts, certificates and documents as “virus” and “parasite” within art institutions and publications see: Ingrid Schaffner et al., eds., Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing, and Archiving in Art (Munich; New York: Prestel, 1998).; Josh Takano Chambers-Letson, “Contracting Justice: The Viral Strategy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres,” Criticism 51, no. 4 (2010): 559–87.; Tyson, “The Context as Host: Hans Haacke’s Art of Textual Exhibition” (2015).