fighting back

The art world is fighting back in the American cultural crisis

Art Basel panel calls for united response to political ‘apocalypse’

The American artist and activist John Giorno’s Thanx 4 Nothing (2013) at Elizabeth Dee’s stand Vanessa Ruiz

“Is the culture in America really in trouble?” Was the burning question during a lecture at Art Basel in Miami Beach on Thursday evening, to which all panel members responded with a resounding “yes”.
Anne Pasternak, the director of the New York Brooklyn Museum, did not stick to her words and was quick to limit the focus to the US. “There is a war against the culture in this country, there is war against people of color, immigrants and women,” she said. “Art Basel feels like the party before the apocalypse.”
The tax reforms of President Donald Trump are a major source of concern for Pasternak. “It’s like a tsunami and I do not know how to plan it,” she said. “There are days when I ask myself: ‘Is there a museum and artists are supported that I can make the best for the world?'”
Teju Cole, the New York based writer and photographer who moderated the lecture, believes that the ‘apocalypse’ has already arrived for some. “[The situation] has become so poisonous and hateful.Our situation has never been one whole.There are people whose doors are being knocked down and they are being picked up by the US immigration and customs clearing … there is persecution going on, “he said.
So how do artists respond to this cultural crisis? The Jordan based artist Jordan Casteel noted that the current moment is not new. “We are more shocked than before, but in my opinion it has been rotten for a while, it is the snowball that is building,” she said. The artist, who has a solo show at the Denver Art Museum in February 2019, is exhibiting at the fair with the Casey Kaplan gallery in New York.

Bill Arning, the director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, said that some artists start to question their practice. “Friends who work in a way that is not representative or not political, have called me to share their fear and ask,” Is this what we are supposed to do in the light of this reality? ” “Pasternak noticed in the meantime that artists are beginning to” respond to this historic calling “.
In terms of remaining relevant to museums, Pasternak said that “building bridges” is the key. “What worries me is that we instill ourselves and fight with each other instead of having a bourgeois discourse,” she said. “Apart from having to put each other more responsible, we have to join forces to make the change that we need.”
Dealers at the fair also speak out at this critical time. “We are in a serious phase – not only with culture, but also with the environment.” The stock market can be booming, but at what price? “Asks Ron Warren, director of the Mary Boone Gallery in New York. “There is a whole segment of the art world that is happy with how it goes, but they do not see the repercussions of current politics.”
The gallery shows a new work from the studio of the painter Peter Saul, who lives in Texas. President Trump becomes a wonder woman, unites the country and fighting Rocket Man (2017) shows Trump as a “tri-racial woman,” says Warren. The painting has a price of $ 150,000 to $ 200,000.
The New York-based trader Elizabeth Dee, who has two political works (each up to $ 34,000) by the American artist and activist John Giorno on her stand, discovers a cultural shift, but warns that this is just the beginning. “There is an over-permissivity around race, class and gender in this country,” she says. “Before Trump and the era after truth, artists were more apolitical, but it is heart-warming to see, especially as an American woman, that action is now being taken.”

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