June 18, 2024


Art Shines Through

MoMA Trustee Leon Black Accused of Rape

Leon Black, formerly board chair of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and currently a trustee, is being sued on charges that he raped a woman in the Manhattan townhouse of the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, his onetime financial adviser. Cheri Pierson on November 28 filed a suit alleging that Black orally raped her in a “secluded area” of Epstein’s home in 2002, leaving her in “excruciating pain.” Pierson, who at the time of the alleged rape was a single mother of limited means, said she was invited to the townhouse by Epstein to give Black a massage, for which he paid her three hundred dollars.

Pierson’s allegations against Black follow those made by Guzel Ganieva, with whom she shares a lawyer. Ganieva in June 2021 filed suit against Black, contending that he sexually abused her for years. Black filed a countersuit accusing the Russian former model of defaming him; his claim was tossed out in June 2022, with the presiding judge denouncing it as “glaringly deficient.” Black’s lawyers have characterized Pierson’s suit as “baseless.”

Black, the former CEO and chair of Apollo Asset Management, in March 2021 declined to stand for re-election as chair of MoMA’s board after weeks of sustained pressure from artists, activists, and staff to remove Black as chair owing to his ties to Epstein. A probe into Black’s dealings with the late financier, conducted at Black’s behest, had uncovered no wrongdoing on Black’s part, though it did reveal $158 million in payments from him to Epstein between 2012 and 2017, which were shown to be for “legitimate [financial] advice” worth roughly $2 billion. Also discovered were $30 million in loans from the Black to Epstein, only $10 million of which had been repaid. Black had additionally come under fire from artists and others for his connection to Constellis Holdings, via Apollo’s investment in the firm. Formerly known as Blackwater, the defense contractor had rebranded following the 2007 Nisour Square massacre, in which company employees fatally shot seventeen unarmed Iraqi civilians.

Black, who began his chairmanship of the board in 2018, has been a trustee since 1997.