Since the election of Donald Trump, the idea of art as protest has seemed particularly important. But yesterday a collection of more than 100 artists, critics and curators, called for an “art strike” on Inauguration Day. The list includes names like Cindy Sherman, Richard Serra and Marilyn Minter.
A petition circulated that “invites” cultural institutions to put a halt to business as usual on Jan. 20, presumably by refusing to open their doors. The petition explains, “We consider Art Strike to be one tactic among others to combat the normalization of Trumpism — a toxic mix of white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, militarism and oligarchic rule. Like any tactic, it is not an end in itself but rather an intervention that will ramify into the future.” And although the phrase “art strike” is reiterated several times, including in the document's title, the undersigners clarify, “It is not a strike against art, theater or any other cultural form. It is an invitation to motivate these activities anew, to reimagine these spaces as places where resistant forms of thinking, seeing, feeling and acting can be produced.”
Right off the bat, LACMA vowed to remain open. Director of communications Miranda Carroll told The New York Times, “Our entire program and mission, every day, is an expression of inclusion and appreciation of every culture.”
Reps at the Broad expressed similar sentiments, and MOCA doubled down by making admission free.
An official statement from the latter museum we received via email says, “In celebration of the First Amendment, and our ongoing commitment to honoring the multiplicity of voices and perspectives that make the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the United States so deeply rich, MOCA will be free on Inauguration Day.”
And from the Broad: “The Broad will be open during normal hours on Jan. 20. Our mission is to make art accessible to the broadest possible audience. Many of the artworks in the Broad collection and currently on view at the museum are essential expressions of basic freedoms and reflect important social, cultural, racial and political issues. We want to ensure the public has the opportunity to experience those artworks.”
Observers and journalists have expressed skepticism over the idea. In a post yesterday, Guardian arts columnist Jonathan Jones wrote:
[An] art strike is just about the least effective idea for resisting Trump that I have heard. The American left is in for a long, wretched period of irrelevance if this is its idea of striking back. I admire some of these artists greatly, but the notion that museums will help anything by closing their doors, or students will scare Middle America into its senses by cutting art classes, tastes not of real hard-fought politics but shallow radical posturing by some very well-heeled and comfortable members of a cultural elite. These eminent artists come across as people who are used to being listened to without having to try. Worse, there is something nostalgic about the petition, as if this were the 1960s all over again. Some hope … The real reason art strikes and fine words at the Golden Globes are futile is that they cannot do justice to the danger the world is in. Liberals, this is not an opportunity for radical grandstanding. History has chosen our generation to be tested. Save your strength – you will need it.