OpinionWeekend

Required Reading

For those in Miami this week, they may have spotted this unconventional billboard image by artist Susan Silas. Visible from I-195 on the way in from Miami Beach in Wynwood, the project evolved out of her residency in Everglades National Park. The project is sponsored by the Knight Foundation, the Everglades Park and AIRIE (Artists in Residence in the Everglades). (image courtesy the artist)
For those in Miami this week, you may have spotted this unconventional billboard by artist Susan Silas. Visible from I-195 on the way from Miami Beach to Miami, the image evolved out of her residency in Everglades National Park. Sponsored by the Knight Foundation, the Everglades Park, and AIRIE (Artists in Residence in the Everglades), the project seeks to disseminate images of South Florida wildlife that challenge people’s preconceptions. (image courtesy the artist)

This week, the rise of philanthrocaptialism, race debt in the US, how images fade in the media, Pantone’s colors of the year, the Art Preservation Index, and more.

 John Cassidy’s piece on the new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the “rise of philanthrocapitalism” is worth your time:

It’s not just the size of the donations that the wealthy are making that demands attention, though. Charitable giving on this scale makes modern capitalism, with all of its inequalities and injustices, seem somewhat more defensible. Having created hugely successful companies that have generated almost unimaginable wealth, Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffett are sending a powerful message to Wall Street hedge-fund managers, Russian oligarchs, European industrialists, Arab oil sheiks, and anybody else who has accumulated a vast fortune: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Speaking at Harvard in 2007, Gates attributed this quotation to his dying mother. (A slightly different version of it appears in St. Luke’s gospel.) In 2010, Gates and Buffett challenged fellow members of the ultra-rich club to give away at least half of their wealth. Since then, more than a hundred billionaires have signed the “Giving Pledge.” Some of these mega-donors, such as Buffett, are content to let others direct their donations. (In 2006, he signed over much of his fortune to the Gates Foundation.) Increasingly, however, wealthy people are setting up their own philanthropic organizations and pursuing their own causes — a phenomenon that has been called “philanthrocapitalism.”

That is the positive side. It is also worth noting, however, that all of this charitable giving comes at a cost to the taxpayer and, arguably, to the broader democratic process. If Zuckerberg and Chan were to cash in their Facebook stock, rather than setting it aside for charity, they would have to pay capital-gains tax on the proceeds, money that could be used to fund government programs. If they willed their wealth to their descendants, then sizable estate taxes would become due on their deaths. By making charitable donations in the form of stock, they, and their heirs, could escape both of these levies.

 There is a new scrutiny of private foundations, and people are asking if they are part of the problem and not the solution. Linsey McGoey writes:

Increased charitable giving to the world’s wealthiest corporations is simply one novel aspect of a much bigger phenomenon: the growing power and clout of private philanthropic actors over global institutions such as the World Health Organization.

With an endowment of $42 billion, the Gates Foundation spends about $3 billion each year towards causes that, at first glance, seem irreproachable. But the giving has hidden costs.

Take donations towards the World Health Organization. In 2013, the Gates Foundation gave over $300 million to the UN health agency — the largest contribution from any donor that year, including the US government. What the Gates Foundation spends on global development yearly is almost as much as the overall operating budget of the WHO, and that doesn’t include its other philanthropic programs.

 Pantone chose Rose Quartz and Serenity as the colors of the year. It’s the first time they have chosen a blend of two shades:

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 Randy Kennedy reports on the new cultural corridor proposed for the Berkshires:

The project, intended to draw more visitors to the northern Berkshires and to help the economy of North Adams in particular, would include a new contemporary art museum, the renovation of a 1938 movie palace and the building of what Mr. Krens calls a museum for “extreme model railroading and contemporary architecture,” all in or near North Adams. The plan was announced at a news conference in North Adams.

The plan is being formulated a year after the opening of the final stage of an expansion of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown that has drawn tens of thousands of new visitors, and as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, known as Mass MoCA, has embarked on its own expansion, to more than double its gallery space.

 The Art Preservation Index wants collectors to know that much of the artwork they just bought will deteriorate:

“There are certain artists whose names make every conservator laugh, but no one is telling collectors,” says Emily MacDonald-Korth, a former specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute and the founder of the Art Preservation Index. She says that collectors need this information to budget for their future conservation work before buying art. “We need to speak to them ahead of time so that they can make informed purchases,” she says.

 Alexander Provan of Triple Canopy summarizes the fallout and responses to the publication’s original article about International Art English by Alix Rule and David Levine:

Since the e-flux journal responses, the chatter around IAE has essentially gone dormant except for the occasional belch of magma and ash. My point in describing the essay’s circulation is not to identify who was right and wrong, but to provide a fragmentary account of how knowledge is formed on and in relation to the Internet.

 How Theaster Gates, Mark Bradford, and Rick Lowe are changing what art can be:

The question spoke to the fundamental problem of political art, which had traditionally stayed inside the studio or gallery rather than becoming an active presence in the lives of the people it was meant to champion. For Lowe, now 54, it was also the question that led him to embark on a new way of creating art. And it would ultimately — though Lowe didn’t know it at the time — inspire two fellow artists and eventual friends, Theaster Gates and Mark Bradford, to think more expansively about their own art: what its purpose was, how it should be seen, even where it should live.

 How the language of “diversity” is changing:

“Diversity” is slowly becoming a hollow word for me. A word without the face of my brother or my mom or my sister-friend. For me, diversity isn’t a challenge, or something to consider abstractly as the subject of a poem, or something to seek. It’s this life I’m living. It’s this exhale.

 The controversial languuge of undocumented and illegal immigrants:

“I am here illegally, without legal status, without authorization. Those are facts,” Vargas, who came to the US from the Philippines as a child, told the Guardian. “I as a person am not illegal because people can’t be illegal. Calling people illegal is not only factually inaccurate, it’s journalistically irresponsible.”

 A really great discussion of race, “debt,” and the United States. Eula Biss writes:

Whiteness is not a kinship or a culture. White people are no more closely related to one another, genetically, than we are to black people. American definitions of race allow for a white woman to give birth to black children, which should serve as a reminder that white people are not a family. What binds us is that we share a system of social advantages that can be traced back to the advent of slavery in the colonies that became the United States. ‘‘There is, in fact, no white community,’’ as Baldwin writes. Whiteness is not who you are. Which is why it is entirely possible to despise whiteness without disliking yourself.

 In its first front page editorial since 1920, the New York Times is calling for a drastic reduction in the availability of guns in the US. The paper writes:

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It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.

 A photo can rouse emotion around the world but only for so long, it seems. The image of Aylan Kurdi, the little Syrian-Kurdish boy who drowned when his boat from Turkey to Greece capsized, shocked the world, but then this happened:

“Western European newspapers became significantly more sympathetic towards migrants and refugees immediately after photographs of a drowned boy on a Turkish beach were published at the beginning of September, but within one week most had reverted to their original editorial position,” says the report.

In case you forgot the newspaper covers afterwards, here they are:

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 50 of 2015’s biggest hit songs condensed into 5 minutes:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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