Art has long been a necessary and effective tool for protest and social action. Therefore, many find it troubling that as protests were erupting across the country in response to police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, many in the art world remained silent. It appears that to various players within today’s hyper-capitalist mainstream art scene, that art is seen more as a lucrative commercial enterprise for the privileged elite than as a medium for nuanced societal commentary.
From The New York Times:
The same day the Garner judgment came down, one of the biggest contemporary art fairs, Art Basel Miami, opened in Florida. As accounts of demonstrations flooded social media, Art Basel posted breathless reports of strong early sales. For the next five days, dealers stuck to their booths; artists, curators and collectors schmoozed at pools and bars. The only protest came from outraged V.I.P.’s left off the guest list for a Miley Cyrus gig.
Nevertheless, while the frolicking masses at Art Basel may have been more concerned with being on Miley’s guest list, Diddy beating up Drake, or how many models Leonardo DiCaprio brought home from the club, many artists were in fact hard at work, creating compelling pieces about systemic brutality and injustice.
The Times singles out two spaces in particular where works of protest art are currently on display in the city, Smack Mellon and Grey Art Gallery. The Smack Mellon exhibition, titled RESPOND, focuses on recent works of protest art, while the Grey Art Gallery’s show is about radical leftist art from “The Red Decade,” 1929-1940. A Times slideshow of some of these works can be seen here.
Photo: Smack Mellon