Dana Schutz, a white painter, drew international attention this spring when a group of artists/activists signed an open letter demanding the removal of her painting, Open Casket (2016), which was being displayed in New York's 2017 Whitney Biennial.
The work in question depicts the open casket of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was murdered in 1955 for offending a white woman in a grocery store. Schutz argued the painting was an exercise in empathy, while the protesters dubbed it a "Black Death Spectacle"--controversy that's carried into the artist's new ICA Boston exhibition, where a group has demanded the 18-week show be cancelled altogether.
"The institution will be participating in condoning the co-opting of Black pain and showing the art world and beyond that people can co-opt sacred imagery rooted in oppression and face little consequence," the group wrote in a six-page letter. "Contributing to and perpetuating centuries-old racist iconography that ultimately justifies state and socially sanctioned violence on Black people."
Now, nearly 80 members of the National Academy, including Marina Abramovic, Chuck Close, Kara Walker, Cindy Sherman and Dread Scott, have released yet another open letter to voice their support of "cultural institutions like the ICA Boston who refuse to bow to forces in favor of censorship or quelling dialogue."
See the full letter, below, and a list of all signees at ArtNet.
As members of the National Academy, we would like to voice our unequivocal support for Dana Schutz, who was recently excoriated by a group of Boston artists who were demanding that her current exhibition at the ICA in Boston be canceled, a demand meant to penalize Schutz, the artist behind Open Casket, a controversial painting featured at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, which draws on the well-known photograph of Emmett Till lying disfigured in his casket.
This painting is not included in the ICA exhibition.
As fellow artists and architects, we wholeheartedly support cultural institutions like the ICA-Boston who refuse to bow to forces in favor of censorship or quelling dialogue.
It is also of the utmost importance to us that artists not perpetrate upon each other the same kind of intolerance and tyranny that we criticize in others.
We support the ICA-Boston and its decision to exhibit the works of Dana Schutz, and to maintain programming that fosters conversations between people with different points of view, especially given our current political climate of intolerance.