Required Reading

This week, the story of Emmett Till’s image in the coffin, New York’s new copper skyscrapers, Damien Hirst is back, why authoritarians hate the arts, calorie counts for cannibals, and more.

SHoP Architects have completed a pair of copper-clad skyscrapers in Manhattan that feature bent silhouettes and a skybridge suspended more than 90 metres above the ground. There are more images on Dezeen. (via Dezeen)

Raising these questions is not to say that we don’t need art, or that art can’t do anything at all, but rather that art is not exceptional. Art can’t do anything if we don’t. We cannot fail to recognize when and how artists participate in an exploitative market, which does not only include commercial galleries and auction houses, but also museums, non-profits, and academic institutions. Often, the participation of artists is at the expense of their own wellbeing. As Shaked poses in her essay, “Why does this art world crowd support a system in which only a handful of them will end up making a living by selling their art or landing a tenured job?”

But it was another of his mother’s actions that changed the course of history: She permitted several photographers to take pictures of her son’s disfigured corpse and urged the publication of the gruesome images. “[People] would not be able to visualize what had happened, unless they were allowed to see the results of what had happened,” she later said. “They had to see what I had seen. The whole nation had to bear witness to this.”

Mrs. Till Mobley’s entreaties went only so far. No mainstream magazine or newspaper would publish the photograph, deeming its graphic imagery inappropriate. But she was able to turn to the far more receptive editors of widely-circulated black magazines like Jet, The American Negro: A Magazine of Protest, and The Chicago Defender.

Hirst is not famous for being an enigmatic talent. Certainly he is recognized for artworks that obsess over death, capital, and all things macabre, as well as his predilection for pickling sharks and other creatures in aqua-tinted formaldehyde, but he is best known for being brash, crass, and profitable. Although the general public had caught on to his insufferable personality by 2002, when he called 9/11 “kind of like an artwork in its own right,” the not-so-Young British Artist bestrode a tide of escalating asking prices through 2008, when he raised £111 million at a Sotheby’s auction without the help of a dealer or gallery. It was the same day Lehman Brothers collapsed.

Authoritarian leaders throughout history have intuited this fact and have acted accordingly. The Stalinist government of the 1930s required art to meet strict criteria of style and content to ensure that it exclusively served the purposes of state leadership. In his memoir, the composer and pianist Dmitri Shostakovich writes that the Stalinist government systematically executed all of the Soviet Union’s Ukrainian folk poets. When Augusto Pinochet took power in Chile in 1973, muralists were arrested, tortured and exiled. Soon after the coup, the singer and theater artist Víctor Jara was killed, his body riddled with bullets and displayed publicly as a warning to others. In her book “Brazilian Art Under Dictatorship,” Claudia Calirman writes that the museum director Niomar Moniz Sodré Bittencourt had to hide works of art and advise artists to leave Brazil after authorities entered her museum, blocked the exhibition and demanded the work be dismantled because it contained dangerous images like a photograph of a member of the military falling off a motorcycle, which was seen as embarrassing to the police. Such extreme intervention may seem far removed from the United States today, until we consider episodes like the president’s public castigation of the “Hamilton” cast after it issued a fairly tame commentary directed at Mike Pence.

  • The awkward truth is bigotry played a big role in the Trump win. Mehdi Hasan writes:

Their view is backed by a detailed Gallup analysis of interviews with a whopping 125,000 Americans, which found that Trump supporters, far from being the “left behind” or the losers of globalization, “earn relatively high household incomes and are no less likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration.” The “bottom line” for Gallup’s senior economist Jonathan Rothwell? “Trump’s popularity cannot be neatly linked to economic hardship.”

Look, if you still believe that Trump’s appeal was rooted in economic, and not racial, anxiety, ask yourself the following questions: Why did a majority of Americans earning less than $50,000 a year vote for Clinton, not Trump, according to the exit polls? Why, in the key Rust Belt swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, did most voters who cited the economy as “the most important issue facing the country” opt for Hillary over the Donald? And why didn’t black or Latino working class voters flock to Trump with the same fervor as white working class voters? Or does their economic insecurity not count?

— “Will & Grace” DVDs

Legislation that benefits women other than his wife

— Paintings of ripe fruit

— Jared Leto

— Garlic, a crucifix, direct sunlight, or a vampire hunter other than his wife

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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