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USA has a big racism problem

theartnewspaper: America is in crisis and the art world is not helping. Amid ongoing protests across two dozen cities in the US following George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis last week, a Kaws Companion sculpture and other works of art were looted from 5Art Gallery in Los Angeles on Saturday. And it seems that fighting for a Kaws wins out over fighting for a cause.

The gallery—which presents “urban” pop and street artists, according to its website, and features works by artists like Bansky, Invader and Takashi Murakami—posted a story to Instagram detailing the looting as it happened, which proved a kind of poetry in motion. The work of Kaws, aka the New York graffiti artist Brian Donnelly, has often been castigated for its “conceptual bankruptcy” while it fetches ever-ballooning prices at auction. His multimillion-dollar, oversized toy figurines known as Companions are in many ways emblematic of the contemporary art world’s excess of wealth and inflation of importance, all of which is of course based on an extensive lineage of white privilege and patronage.

As the masked black protester ran out of the gallery with the grey Companion—ironically removing the piece of overly commodified artwork from the white cube and restoring it to its more radical street genesis from which it was inspired—what remained was a graffitied message that read “fuck white art” on the gallery’s exterior.

Consider, however, the caption on 5Art’s Instagram post about the looting, which reads: “What a sad day! We are so much against what happened to George Floyd. But this affected our employes [sic] and the artists that had nothing to do with this. Thanks to everyone who helped us today 🙏🏻 Please send over every footage you have.”

The “but” in this statement is the unequivocal defence of white privilege in the art world. It explicitly claims that the dealers, their staff and the artists whose work they sell are exempt from the perpetuation of systemic inequality. It also suggests that their sympathies for the theft of a black life at the hands of police could be causally curtailed by the looting of their property by a protester, meaning their support of anti-racism is changeable at best and self-serving at worst. And by asking for video footage that could be used to identify the man who took the sculpture and ostensibly press charges against him implicitly calls on that unequal system to enact justice in the gallery’s favour while once again threatening the life of a black person.

Many commenters on 5Arts’ Instagram lamented the destruction of private property within the scope of these protests rather than the loss of lives that led to the situation. Or the freedoms now at risk of being lost, as US president Donald Trump promises to mobilise the military against civilians, and police respond with undue force against the protestors, running over some with cars, pepper spraying children and identified journalists, and shooting rubber bullets at citizens on their own property.

But the looting of the Kaws sculpture almost seemed to become a catalyst for individuals in the art world, from meme makers like Jerry Gagosian to writers and curators, to start calling on institutions and commercial entities to take a stand.

“The video of the Kaws being taken from a gallery—maybe nature is healing,” wrote the art critic Antwaun Sargent on Twitter, adding that “the silence of the contemporary art world, who have spent the last few months claiming art is essential, haven’t done much of anything to show they are on the side of the protestors, justice”.

Indeed, the silence of most galleries and museums about the protests has been as deafening as the sirens that have echoed through major cities across the nation—which is curious since they have been banging a loud drum about art’s relevance to society lately.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic closed galleries and museums across the US in March, draining multimillion-dollar budgets overnight and resulting in widespread layoffs of contract and lower-pay workers—who are statistically more likely to be people of colour versus their high-earning white counterparts. Since then, the art world’s party line has aggressively been about how the world needs art “now more than ever”, relying on an imagined history of art as some grand unifier, a utopian social tool for the masses that has somehow inexplicably been made by and held in the hands of mostly white and male artists for centuries, and which we must all rally around to support now.

And yet as literal masses of every race have taken to the streets for a week straight in a unified rally for equal rights and an end to racialised police brutality, many of the country’s largest museums—their collections stocked, by the way, with looted artefacts from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Indigenous lands on which they sit—have remained slow to comment on the issue.

At the time of this article’s writing, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had posted a statement of solidarity on social media on Saturday as the city was placed under an executive order curfew by Mayor Eric Garcetti. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was the only institution of New York’s “big three” to have offered a declaration of solidarity of in support of black Americans in a caption posted alongside Faith Ringgold’s Freedom of Speech, though others posted similar sentiments within an hour of the Met.

Some commercial galleries have made gestures of solidarity and activism, reposting links for bail funds to which to donate, like Lyles & King. Others have shared images of political works and quotes by black artists they represent, like Jack Shainman and Bridget Donahue, or in some cases referencing the work of activist artists, of which there are many, including the cofounder of the Black Lives Matter movement Patrisse Cullors, and Dread Scott whose perennially relevant flag that simply states in white and black “a man was lynched by police yesterday” was shared widely on social media last week.

These actions, however well-intentioned, are not enough and show how deeply ingrained white privilege is within our industry. The art world as a predominantly white entity must be far more vigilant in the ways it remains complicit in racist structures and cease simply parroting black people’s words in times of trauma. Days into nightly nationwide protests, decades into reports of systematised violence against black people, and centuries into systemic oppression that benefits the white and wealthy in this country, it is not just too little too late, but insulting if not dangerous to black communities—as the 5Arts case proves—if museums, galleries and auction houses do not make changes to the way they do their business and the people they do it with in the here and now.

As an industry, we are all already late to the game. Financial and material shifts are necessary to rebuild not just a more inclusive art world but a less oppressive society, or there will be little change. Until then, the art world is not progressive so much as predatory, relying on the labour and sacrifices of others and continuing to reap the benefits of a broken system while waiting for another to be built.

Source: Published by theartnewspaper

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Oghenekome Sylvester
Oghenekome Sylvester
1 month ago

Racism has always been an issue in the US sadly enough they don’t see us as equal. They see blacks as slaves, they feel we are inferior. The same US preach freedom and yet they treat Black Americans like their lives don’t matter. It’s sad really!

Chima franklyn
Chima franklyn
1 month ago

But why do the white see blacks like animals.
It’s not good at all we are all human beings

Idris yayah
Idris yayah
1 month ago

I dont want to know d meaning of racism but all i can say is dat we Nigerians are Culprit also…When i was in secondary school..we had Albinos in our school and we definately made life hell for them…how do we term that?…then as a football fan…what do u call Scholes or Rooney??…Sometimes PIG??!!…

Suleiman Abdullahi
Suleiman Abdullahi
1 month ago

Hmm big issues

Nwawuba Emmanuel Chibueze
Nwawuba Emmanuel Chibueze
1 month ago

Its completely sad to see racism on a hig at a country called the world power

PEDRO
PEDRO
1 month ago

I don’t understand the reason for all this

Victor Destiny
Victor Destiny
1 month ago

We have seen how racism eat deep in the American society and on several occasion led to death of many black Americans. USA government has to take a strong stands to stop this racism and killings or else sonner or later it will continue.

Ojeah John Ekene
Ojeah John Ekene
1 month ago

big problem indeed. I hope for a world free from racial discrimination. I don’t see any reason why people would hate others for being black . it’s not just right

Daniel Ntichika
Daniel Ntichika
1 month ago

Dey really HV a big racism problem… M begining to hate d states so much. Dey feel lyk d greatest in all areas

ADEGOKE ADEKUNLE MICHAEL
ADEGOKE ADEKUNLE MICHAEL
1 month ago

What a tragedy in America about the death of black American called George Floyd. Hope America government should investigate this matter and put all the suspects behind the bar

UzomaComfort
UzomaComfort
1 month ago

Racism has always been the topic of the day in use and this is really blowing out of proportion we are all human created by one God for christ sake

Ajagbe Olufemi
Ajagbe Olufemi
1 month ago

Protest turned to looting. What has come over people.
How will a law enforcement agent be a racist. America is finished

Pablo chidiebere
Pablo chidiebere
1 month ago

That is how it always be the white treating us like animals

Olayinka Njoku
Olayinka Njoku
1 month ago

It’s so sad….A country owned by God can never behave this way, they will love their neighbors like themselves. America is owned by devil and governed by a racist. I wonder why it’s called God owns country..

Anthony Anyanwu
Anthony Anyanwu
1 month ago

This racism against black in america is really getting out of hand and I feel this the best time to solve this issues is really apualling to see

Emmanuel Aso otisi
Emmanuel Aso otisi
1 month ago

The rate of racism in the United States is too high, we need to love one another,let say no to racism and embrace love

Adewole olatunde samuel
Adewole olatunde samuel
1 month ago

Racism has been a great problem in U.s.a and trump is not helping at all.

Felicia Moses
Felicia Moses
1 month ago

Theses so bad we are all equal, white should stop hating black

Omenogor Lucky
Omenogor Lucky
1 month ago

That’s true, they are just not friendly with Black’s, it’s really wrong.

Ndumnwere Chima
Ndumnwere Chima
1 month ago

The United States of America is too developed for racism to still be a social and cultural issue in the country.
They should be able to protect their Black and coloured citizens.

Matthew chinedu
Matthew chinedu
1 month ago

Dis is big issue

Ekigho Grace
Ekigho Grace
1 month ago

Racism has always be the problem with the white,they feel they colonize us so we are inferior to them,and this is very bad

Adepoju oluwapelumi
Adepoju oluwapelumi
1 month ago

This a big issue

Anyaechem Benedict
Anyaechem Benedict
1 month ago

Britain (England) is the worst…but they still hide their own but for USA their own no be here

ojelabi babatunde
ojelabi babatunde
1 month ago

USA is not the only country that has racism problem, many European countries are culprits…………

ogunjemiyo Akinlami
ogunjemiyo Akinlami
1 month ago

I hope they will find solution to this racism issue,they should not treat black as animal everybody has his right to live

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

American lacks sense of reasoning, they believe we’re are inferior.
If not for our blood sucking leaders, it would have been a different story entirely!

Emeghurhie Peter
Emeghurhie Peter
1 month ago

Is not only USA that is full of recism. Must white countries doesn’t love Africans, like country like Germany is full if recism in highest order .

Olawoore Tesleem
Olawoore Tesleem
1 month ago

The White from the States realky have the problem of Racism in their blood.

Nma Madiwu
Nma Madiwu
1 month ago

Great issue

Ademola wahab
Ademola wahab
1 month ago

At times i do wonder about the freedom usa are preaching, this white guys see we blacks as nothing like we dont even exist, and they still treating blacks like a slave,which is wrong, why the racist chant everywhere, like so sad, this life we all cherish so much that we behaving like nobody gonna leave for good is a lie, so the time you have better use it wisely to love one another when you still can, stop the hate and let love reign………..

Mohammed Nma madiwu
Mohammed Nma madiwu
1 month ago

Why this issue

Segun John
Segun John
1 month ago

I hope they give him d right to do

Ayodeji Adeniyi
Ayodeji Adeniyi
1 month ago

Very sad, it’s now becoming a global issue. I think some people are just using that opportunity to do their predetermined evil act

John Orobosa
John Orobosa
1 month ago

It’s well. No matter what racism is never an option. Say no to racism!

Suleiman Abdullahi
Suleiman Abdullahi
1 month ago

USA with racisms is in their blood

Stephen Izebhokhale
Stephen Izebhokhale
1 month ago

The protesters should stem things down… The looting and vandals ain’t the solution. More diplomatic approach should be taken to get Justice for George Floyd

OLADELE SODIQ
OLADELE SODIQ
1 month ago

USA is a country of racism before it is there nature and is something that is good

Raheeem mustapha abiodun
Raheeem mustapha abiodun
1 month ago

saddened to hear the death of Floyd, this issue of racism in usa and other European countries should stop, they should stop treating the black as a slave

Lokrit yilchini gomper
Lokrit yilchini gomper
1 month ago

Racism destroys, let’s stop racism…
We blacks don’t discriminate like the whites, see them everywhere in our land handling so many projects but they don’t give us that opportunity in their place no matter how good we are because of racism.

ikechukwu
ikechukwu
1 month ago

thats true

Peace okocha
Peace okocha
1 month ago

American has always been the zenith of racism, and even their administrators are racists per say or else they would have taken action. If it was a white boy killed that way, all hell would have been let loose.#blacklivesmatter

Onafuwa Oluwasheyi Oladipo
Onafuwa Oluwasheyi Oladipo
1 month ago

The incident really brought a bad spotlight on the USA.

Fatima Abdullahi
Fatima Abdullahi
1 month ago

Yes of cause Very right

adubi oluwafemi samuel
adubi oluwafemi samuel
1 month ago

Big issue

Ajagu Joseph Samson
Ajagu Joseph Samson
1 month ago

I just hope this stops

Fatima Abdullahi
Fatima Abdullahi
1 month ago

Wow that nice a dating site

AREO Abiodun
AREO Abiodun
1 month ago

I thought with all this racism issues there must be a permanent law that would deal against it

Oyewole Smart
Oyewole Smart
29 days ago

Racism is a global issue that as to stop. I just hope and pray we get to the level where we see ourselves equal

Gabriel Eluare
Gabriel Eluare
28 days ago

What is happening now in d US is as a result of what they should have address long time ago, it is sad the d Americans don’t see blacks as equal to d whites.