As most faithful Filthy Dreams readers will probably know, the shit hit the fan this week over Dana Schutz’s misguided painting Open Casket, which depicts Emmett Till in his casket, at the Whitney Biennial. To be honest, I knew as soon as I saw it at the Biennial press preview that it was a problem. Showing a white woman artist’s representation of the traumatic image of a battered body of a black child goes beyond a curatorial misstep. It points at the systemic racism within art institutions that allowed for the painting’s hanging in a major contemporary art survey show. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked in the Whitney curatorial offices and I’m not shocked.)
Many writers have tackled the copious problems that come up with the painting itself and its inclusion in the biennial. So I won’t get into it here and, in fact, I wasn’t going to publish on it at all, letting others take the lead. UNTIL…
Today, a letter came out from supposedly Dana Schutz, emailed to several media outlets that published it as fact including Out Magazine, New York Magazine and Frieze. Tisk tisk! Don’t you have fact checkers?! Because it turns out the letter is FAKE NEWS!!
In the letter, “Schutz” called for the removal of her own painting, responding to the protests and letter from artist Hannah Black and other co-signers to destroy the painting earlier this week. The letter is perfect, expressing everything that Schutz SHOULD be saying, but won’t. She writes, “Though it was not at all my intention to cause harm, many artists have come forward to announce that my depiction of suffering is in turn causing them suffering. I cannot rightly protect a painting at the expense of human beings.”
The faker Schutz also critiques the curators tepid responses to the controversy saying, “And while I agree with your curatorial statement that art can be an appropriate venue for political expression and debate, I do not agree with your implication that Black pain—what you refer to as “tremendous emotional resonance”—is a social good to be sought after through art. At least, not within a historically white-run institution, at the hands of a white artist, in an exhibit organized by a predominantly non-Black staff.” *slow clap*
According to Hyperallergic, Stephen Soba, the Whitney’s director of communications, said, “It’s certainly well written, but we asked [Schutz], and she had nothing to do with writing it.” It certainly is well-written! Hyperallergic goes on to explain, “The museum is still trying to determine the source of the letter.”
Well, so are WE! And I want to beat them to it. What is the Whitney going to do once they find out who did it anyway? Write awkward press releases? Scold them and ban them from the Whitney forever? Send them to contemporary art jail?
Don’t reveal yourself to those institutional stiffs. Come to US! Are YOU the person who wrote this letter? Do you know who did? Because I have a job at Filthy Dreams for a certain ambitious go-getter! This is just the drive and motivation that we need around here! I’ll even let you write more fake letters.
If you are the person or know who is, email firstname.lastname@example.org