Back in March, protests erupted over a painting displayed at the New York City Whitney Museum’s biennial. Some activists stood in front of the picture, trying to block others from viewing it. Others called for it to be taken down, and some even called for the work to be destroyed. But it wasn’t Jesse Helms, Rudy Giuliani, or any other conservative upset about offensive art. It was progressives who were offended. The offense? Cultural appropriation.
The painting in question was “Open Casket,” a portrait of Emmett Till. Till, an African-American boy, was brutally murdered in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His somber legacy still haunts an America struggling to come to terms with racial division. The controversy over the painting was not about its content, however, but its creator. Artist Dana Schutz is a white woman, and for some that makes her a person who should not paint a picture of Till.
This week in Boston, tempers over Schutz’s work flared again as a solo show of hers went up at the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA). The painting of Till, her most famous work, was not included in the exhibition, but that didn’t stop progressive activists from protesting the platform given to a woman who had given such grave offense.
As the Daily Beast reported, a group of artists and activists sent a letter to ICA which said, “Please pull the show. This is not about censorship. This is about institutional accountability, as the institutions working with the artist are even now not acknowledging that this nation is not an even playing field… [“Open Casket’s”] absence from the exhibition does not excuse the institution from engaging with the harm caused by the work by holding Dana Schutz accountable.”
Read more at The Federalist.