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The Art World Has Gone To War With Trump – But Will It Shoot Itself In The Foot?

Apr 25, 2017

Courtesy of the artist and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

The protests started almost immediately after the presidential election. An artist named Annette Lemieux emailed the Whitney Museum and asked that her installation Left Right Left Right — a series of life-size photographs of raised fists turned into protest signs — be turned upside down. The artist Jonathan Horowitz and some friends started an Instagram feed called @dear_ivanka, attempting to directly appeal to the soon-to-be First Daughter and shame her into pushing her father away from the Bannonite brink. The artist Richard Prince refunded her money for a piece that she bought, then put out a statement that was intended to de-authenticate it.

Sam Durant’s light-box sculpture, which read END WHITE SUPREMACY, was hoisted onto the façade of Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea (where it first appeared in the remarkably different context of Obama’s election in 2008), and another edition of it was set up by the gallery Blum & Poe to greet visitors at the Miami Beach Convention Center for Art Basel the first weekend of December, where the usual luxury-brand-fueled jet-set bacchanal seemed a bit muted and anxious and Nadya Tolokonnikova, founder of ***** Riot, delivered a lecture by the pool at the Nautilus hotel on the dangers of authoritarianism.

As the inauguration approached, the art world’s desire to make a statement increased. Many museums across the country went free on January 20, which was seen as a more productive response than shutting down, as a movement called J20 Art Strike called for, and the Whitney did a day of programs in partnership with the group Occupy Museums. The Guggenheim planted a Yoko Ono Wish Tree on the sidewalk out front, letting passersby record their hopes — perhaps that peace and tolerance might prevail. A collective of artists started a platform called 2 Hours a Week, which connects people with political actions they can take while still holding down their jobs. Gallerist Carol Greene teamed up with artist Rachel Harrison to rent buses to bring a group to the Women’s March, armed with social-media-friendly signage.