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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Nan Goldin, Kara Walker, and Jim Jarmusch are among 665 artists endorsing the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in a new open letter.

The campaign is organized by Artists4Bernie, a group founded by artist Mohammed Salemy, together with curator-writer Jennifer Teets and the collective DIS.

A long list of luminaries has signed the letter including the musicians Sky Ferreira, Kelsey Lu, and M.I.A.; gallerist Margaret Clinton; designers Telfar Clemens, Mike Eckhaus, and Zoe Latta; and the artists Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Ed Atkins, Kader Attia, Kevin Beasley, Hannah Black, Ryan McGinley, Hito Steyerl, Wu Tsang, Amalia Ulman, Leilah Weinraub, and Anicka Yi, among many others.

“By endorsing Bernie Sanders we hope to reach out to our American colleagues, friends, and families, and express our enthusiasm in supporting, and voting for, the only candidate we believe can unseat Donald Trump,” the open letter reads.

The letter continues to extol Sanders’s economic, foreign, and environmental policies. It also makes the argument that a Sanders administration would be to the benefit of artists and the cultural sectors at large, declaring:

Bernie Sanders is leading a working class movement that transcends ethnicities, generations, and geographies. Artists and cultural producers are largely precarity laborers–often struggling without benefits, financial security, at the whim of the market. These fields are therefore more inclined to attract people who are already privileged, at the expense of the less privileged—and, often, more talented. Medicare for all, universal childcare, canceling student debt, and free public college, are just a few of the progressive changes that we support for their soundness and logic, that will spill over into a more equal cultural sphere.

“Overall, we strongly feel that only Sanders represents the values and virtues which all of us as cultural producers have always hoped to strive for,” the letter adds and quotes from Sander’s promise to be an “arts President”.

“We believe that a Sanders presidency will provide a serious and tangible chance for a redirection of the United States and perhaps the entire world from the wrong paths that have been followed for far too long,” the letter closes. “President Sanders will inaugurate a new era for America: one of peace, prosperity, and essential human dignity.”

Update 2/25/2020 12:25pm EST: Since yesterday, February 24, the number of artists, critics, and cultural workers supporting Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign with an open letter has jumped from 665 to more than 1,200 today, with the addition of names like Gabo Camnitzer, Aria Dean, Bouchra Khalili, Elka Krajewska, and Agustina Woodgate.

Update 2/26/2020 4:00pm EST: In the day following the South Carolina Democratic debate, 2,579 artists have now signed the “Artists4Bernie” open letter endorsing the Vermont Senator.

Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an...

44 replies on “Nan Goldin and Kara Walker Among 665 Artists to Endorse Bernie Sanders”

    1. Except when they are groveling for endowments from Bernie’s evil rich people and evil foundations because they feel entitled to be rewarded for their unhindered self-expression.

        1. You miss the point. I’ve been in the arts my entire life. I also have family members who are in the trades and live in homes they built themselves. They are every bit as creative as us artists, only they don’t expect to be paid for self-expression. The thought that soft little prima donnas like you think you “stand with the working class” is ludicrous and indicative of just how pretentious you are. All you dumb lemmings know how to do is babble about “tax breaks fer duh wealthy” when, in fact, you’d suck off any rich person who bought your work while you wallow in an endowment trough lined by a Foundation’s grant that you and fellow self-important artistes begged for. After all. Little Jimmy Sundquist deserves HIS BREAK because he is oh-so-special and his work is oh-so-precious!!!! LOL! What you and Bill know about the working “class” could fit in a flea’s ass.

          1. I’ll forgive your anger and assumptions for the time. I think you miss the point and just projected a lot into one statement I made in regards to a specific issue. Do you think it is a just society when the top 0.1% own as much wealth as the bottom 90%? Do the rich need tax breaks as they continue to siphon and concentrate wealth?

            Nothing in my statement inferred I had any kind of disparaging attitude towards working class or trades people–which is exactly where I come from. I also regularly work in the trades to support myself and recognize and have enormous respect for those who do. Why do you assume I don’t?

            You’ve seen me as a small avatar and one sentence and assumed a hell of a lot.

          2. Thank you so much for forgiving me. /sarcasm. I’m a volunteer for a food pantry that serves migrant workers – many of whom are illegal – in southern New York’s “Black Dirt” farm country. I apply my artistic background to aid community revitalization projects that – gasp! – rely on evil rich people, their endowments and their foundations. But, how would you know that? You wouldn’t know that any more then you would know that the jobs they create add to your little Bubble World’s tax base. While you yammer about income inequality and naively expect opportunistic politicians to level the playing field by implementing more government control and increasing their own power, I’ll do what real activists do: work at the grass roots level to effect change. I have no use for useless poseurs like you. But, maybe I’m wrong. Dazzle me with your activist street creds! In the meantime, stick to posting online. Continue being ineffectual where you will be in your comfort zone.

          3. Yeah, I do agree with you on some points. But I can’t agree with you on your kind of black and white thinking about some of these issues.

            You seem to see political activism and grassroots activism as mutually exclusive things, while I think they are really two means to the same end. I think grassroots activism is great, and absolutely effective. I try to participate when time and resources allow. However I think political activism is also necessary to address some of the conditions that produce the need for grassroots activism. We wouldn’t need free volunteer healthcare clinics if healthcare was guaranteed to citizens, for example. It is noble and necessary to affect change in our communities at the grassroots level, however there comes a time when structural issues in our economy and society require a political solution.

            Further I don’t think the fact that, yes, the wealthy are a major contributors to the arts (whether through actually buying artworks or as you say grants and endowments) excludes artists or cultural producers from critiquing or advocating against the interests of the wealthy. Just because they “create jobs” doesn’t exclude them from any further critique. Frankly, thats an absurd position. That is like saying anyone who has a job can’t critique their employer because they gave them a job. Labor laws and protections weren’t bestowed upon workers by the wealthy job-creators–they were fought for by the workers who advocated to their political representatives.

            An artist is not in contradiction if they think their patrons should pay more in taxes. The fact that the larger art-world and auction houses have become complex money-laundering and tax evasion schemes is a whole other issue..

            The artists in this letter are advocating for a candidate and platform that would give health insurance to 27 million uninsured Americans and 40 million+ underinsured Americans.

          4. “The artists in this letter are advocating for a candidate and platform that would give health insurance to 27 million uninsured Americans and 40 million+ underinsured Americans”. Yeah. A Sixties retread who has never run anything more than his mouth and reelection campaigns. I’m a registered Democrat. I think the wealthy should pay more in taxes. I’m just NOT going to join the lemming conga line to support the demagogue who sandbagged the Hillary campaign. The Dems learned the wrong lesson. The media hacks and network teleprompter readers predicted a “Blue Wave” and succeeded in dampening voter turnout. Obamacare needs to be refined and more expansive. But, wait, the little bag of pus that had less brains and integrity than Aexander Solzhenitsyn’s shit has a better idea!!! Woodstock Nation’s spawn is in solidarity with the main reason why Trump is in office. Yuh! They’re in solidarity Wit Duh Woikin’ Class. Jesus. What ignorant drivel. Yeah. Let’s get dem rich fat cats!!! I deserve the big government teat in my mouth 24/7 because Bernie sez so!!!

          5. Haha, I think we probably agree on more than we disagree.

            I am totally for any Democratic candidate who wins the nomination. I think the importance of the more progressive candidates is that they are shifting the political spectrum back towards the left where it once was. The last 40 years has seen the political spectrum pushed further and further right by the neoliberals.

            Sander’s platform is not new, and actually predates the Woodstock nation. Harry Truman put forth a proposal for a universal, single-payer program in 1945. And before him, rough-rider, tough-guy extraordinaire Teddy Roosevelt as well as the later and more progressive FDR who tried multiple times to enact a national health care program.

          6. I have to agree with you there. But those presidents were statesmen and essentially Washington insiders. They were Party stalwarts (except for Teddy’s Bull Moose run) I would just like to see a Dem with his or her feet on the ground. I think Bernie is very bad for the party. Yes. The rich should pay more in taxes, but making them out to be criminals and condemning opponents in your own party of being slaves to Corporations is not a good thing. I would just like to refine Obamacare. Thank you for your patience with my shrill invective.

          7. I can see your points. Like I said, I think we probably agree on more than we disagree with. Sanders is definitely aggressively trying to shift the party back towards the left and I can understand how that is probably a turn off for more moderate voters.

            Today is a big day and we will see in which direction the party is moving! Cheers and thanks for the discussion.

          8. Agreed! Let’s hope we don’t need to form a support group after today! Thank you for your insightful comments.

    2. That’s right, Billy. Leave it to others to speak for you. Did you turn your sentiment into a bumper sticker or a lapel button? Maybe you and Jimmy can turn your artistic talents to those worthy enterprises. The working “class” will applaud you both with their middle fingers up in the air. LOL!

  1. Lots of artists and filmmakers I know endorse Warren (although no one organized a letter, which is no measure of the strong feelings about her).
    We also feel that she fights for the working class.

  2. Although they are certainly entitled to having virtues, I don’t believe that artists and culture workers are more virtuous than any other workers. They have political biases just like anyone else.
    I don’t see Sanders as a viable candidate. His platform is a mile wide and an inch deep with very little thought towards the means of producing wealth. He seems to represent the kind of political thinking that is a throwback to the 50s and 60s.

    1. Could not agree more. With or without Senate and House going blue (most likely without, if he’s the Dem. candidate) he won’t be able to deliver on even a fraction of all of his promises. To me, he sounds like a naive, Swedish politician from 1982.

    2. Lol, I don’t see any indication of the artists thinking they are more virtuous than other workers. Curious where you are getting that impression? The letter simply says his platform aligns with their virtues and thats why they support him. Isn’t that why anyone supports any candidate?

      In general election polls, Sanders beats Trump by the widest margin of any candidate. Why is he not viable? He’s decisively won the popular vote in the first 3 primary/caucuses, showing the broadest support across different demographics.

      (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/general_election/)

      If by a throwback to the political 50’s and 60’s you mean expanding the social safety net, investing in public goods, and strengthening labor unions then I would agree!

      1. “Overall, we strongly feel that only Sanders represents the values and
        virtues which all of us as cultural producers have always hoped to
        strive for,” the letter adds and quotes from Sander’s promise to be an
        “arts President”.

        Sanders’ platform calls for redistribution of wealth without a means for producing wealth. His reasoning follows failed socialist rhetoric without elegant solutions to making the USA more economically equitable. He is a disaster waiting to happen. The best argument that I have heard for voting for Sanders is that he could never pass any of his legislative initiatives anyway, so why not.

      2. “Overall, we strongly feel that only Sanders represents the values and
        virtues which all of us as cultural producers have always hoped to
        strive for,” the letter adds and quotes from Sander’s promise to be an
        “arts President”.

        Sanders’ platform calls for redistribution of wealth without a means for producing wealth. His reasoning follows failed socialist rhetoric without elegant solutions to making the USA more economically equitable. He is a disaster waiting to happen. The best argument that I have heard for voting for Sanders is that he could never pass any of his legislative initiatives anyway, so why not.

        1. From what I have heard from Bernie Sanders his platform calls for amongst other things a redistribution of income through fairer taxation. As for the means of producing wealth-financial capital generated through movements of fiat currency-we have been producing a whole lot of something outta nothing for a very long time.

        2. John, I ask you to look at the real redistribution of wealth that has been occurring in this country since the 70’s, in which the top 1 percent of earners are accruing wealth at much faster rate than the bottom 90 percent of earners. “Trickledown” economics is really trickle-up economics as the wealthy continue to siphon and concentrate the wealth of this country to the top. We are now at the point where the top 0.1% has more wealth that the bottom 90%. Are you comfortable with that kind of distribution of wealth? Its only going to get worse under our current neoliberal politics.

          As far as the artists simply stating that Sanders aligns with their values, I see nothing in the statement where they qualify themselves as having a superior or enlightened viewpoint. They are saying this is the candidate that reflects our values, just as any other group that endorses a particular candidate would say.

          1. The key there in what you said is that the top 1% are accruing wealth faster than the rest of us and we tag along. There is disproportionate wealth distribution, however the wealth is created through capitol investment and free markets which Bernie Sanders is opposed to. He would be disastrous to real progressive change. That is change that creates wealth, not just confiscates it.
            As I stated, I’m grateful that artists consider their virtues but they tend to wear them on their sleeves when telling other people how to think.

          2. Yes it is absolutely through capital investment that they are accruing wealth at much faster rates. I think people’s frustration lay in the fact that economic growth is disproportionately advantageous to those who already have tremendous wealth and resources. The average rate of compensation from CEOs to their employees in 1965 was 20 to 1. Today it is about 220 to 1.

            Trump’s tax cuts are a perfect example of the effects neoliberal politics. Cutting corporate taxes was supposed to, according to the administration, allow business to drastically reinvest in their employees and infrastructure. What the studies since have shown is that a majority of economic benefits from the tax cuts went towards stock buybacks and increased dividends for shareholders. Of course the argument is that a rising stock market DOES benefit a majority of workers because of 401k mutual fund investments. This is true to a degree. However, the stock market, even with Trump’s tax cuts and a massive amount of money put back into the market, it is severely underperforming as compared with Obama’s presidency. At this same point during his first term, the market under Obama was up 70%. (up close to 90% from its lowest point a month or so after his inauguration.) The market is up 30% under that same amount of time under trump.

            Since about 2010 the top 0.1% currently have a larger share of wealth than the bottom 90% of the population. This is an anomalous wealth distribution that hasn’t been seen in this country since pre-1940. It just seems plain unjust that there are 27 million uninsured and 43 million underinsured citizens in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.

          3. Don’t disagree with what you lay out here but do believe that it is a leap from income disparity to support for Sanders. The economics tend to indicate that overall, many have benefited from letting the markets determine where the capital goes.

            Example: I suspect that 10% of the population is having 90% of the sex. However I don’t believe it’s an an issue that requires Federal Government action.
            Personally I am more comfortable with putting those with disproportionate wealth into a position of being forced into investing that wealth into the charitable and the non-profit sector rather than having the Federal Government leveraging income inequality into property confiscation. The goal here isn’t growing the Federal Government and siphoning capital into Washington DC. That is an abyss.

          4. Im glad we can agree on the facts!

            I agree in your example that the federal government should not intervene to more equitably distribute sex amongst the populace. However I don’t think its an analogous comparison, as the unequal distribution of sex does not create huge imbalances in economic and political power as the distribution of wealth does. And I’m not advocating (nor is Sanders I don’t think) that wealth needs to be totally, equitably distributed. Its just that there can be some policies put into place to tip the scales a bit back towards the working and middle classes.

            Curious to hear your ideas about forcing the wealthy to reinvest and how that would be accomplished or what kind of financial mechanisms/incentives would be involved.

          5. Have a couple of anecdotal experiences, here’s one…

            Flint, Michigan: I would posit that the Mott Foundation and the Ruth Mott Foundation have done more to govern the city of Flint by distributing services much better than the Flint City Government for the past 30 years or so. Health care, children’s health care, public education and even security has all been more effectively delivered by those two foundations than by the City Government. I don’t know if this is due to government corruption, the inabilities of the people who are able to be elected (voting is largely a popularity contest, thus the predominance of former debate team captains and cheerleaders) or if they are all crooks that are also incompetent.
            How do you coerce competent and benevolent capitalists to divert more resources into their communities is a good question. That is a discussion that I would love to see.
            My point here is that Sanders’ ideas will exasperate the problem of income inequity. Follow the money, much of which is currently beyond national control. Ironic that the money system has globalized before the governing systems could, but then that story goes back to the Renaissance.

          6. Interesting and I would have to agree that the local government of Flint is incompetent and led to the suffering of many of its citizens. It is good that there are wealthy, private parties willing to step in to help remediate issues like that. Often private citizens can work and organize faster than through public and bureaucratic avenues.

            I guess in my view you could contrast that particular instance of government failure with the overwhelming majority of successful, safe water distribution run by local governments across the country. I think in general public programs and infrastructure are successful (if properly funded and maintained.) In fact I’d be willing to bet the private sector is responsible for more harm than good when it comes to public water–the damage fracking and industrial agriculture wreak on public water supplies is vast and evident.

            Where would we be without the massive public investments of the New-Deal and Post WW2 era? No social security, no medicare/medicaid, no national highway system.

            It seems like the main mechanisms we have in place now to encourage private investment in public goods is through tax-deductions for charitable contributions. Also programs like the Trump administration has introduced like “opportunity zones,” where impoverished communities lacking in capital investment are incentivized through tax-breaks–essentially making it cheaper to invest in these communities over others. Whether this will lead to rejuvenation and public benefit in those lower-income communities is to be seen.

          7. Didn’t even get into the Flint water crisis.
            You’re aware that governments are far and away the largest polluters of fresh water? You might want to research the true history of trash removal in NYC as well. True, there are horrible environmental costs borne by all of us from manufacturing and business practice. Our children bear the brunt of that.
            However, I would argue that the recent tariff wars/skirmishes with the Chinese government have done more to curb green house gasses than the Paris Climate Accords would have.

          8. Didn’t even get into the Flint water crisis.
            You’re aware that governments are far and away the largest polluters of fresh water? You might want to research the true history of trash removal in NYC as well. True, there are horrible environmental costs borne by all of us from manufacturing and business practice. Our children bear the brunt of that.
            However, I would argue that the recent tariff wars/skirmishes with the Chinese government have done more to curb green house gasses than the Paris Climate Accords would have.

  3. While many of Sanders ideas are admirable, he is not one who is flexible and a team player. He and his followers are ideologues not unlike Trump. We need speeches and policies that bring us together.
    He and his supporters lukewarm support for Hilary gave us Trump. His attack on Bloomberg and others will give us Trump again. Good job Bernie! I guess artists like to be outsiders a la Bernie.

    1. Demonizing with half truths. It’s all Bernie’s fault. Hillary didn’t lose because of a lack of enthusiasm on the part of Bernie’s supporters. Note also that he wasn’t the only candidate to attack Bloomberg, they all did. Elizabeth Warren, you may have noticed, was scathing.

      1. Warren was scathing, yes. Why she’s not going after her only real opponent (ie Bernie himself) is a mystery to me.

  4. Honestly? In my modest point of view, all of these “artists” who endorse Sanders’ words belong to the bankrupt American left. No one in their right mind would vote for a Socialist candidate, who receives financial resources from none other than George Soros. How we all know, Soros is the worst enemy of democracy in every country in the world, including America. Another important fact: Sanders is already too old to occupy such an important position as president-in-chief of a great nation like the United States. Fact: so far, Donald Trump did not disappoint his voters until now, and besides, he has great diplomatic relations with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Did Sanders have them? I highly doubt it.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/61b503734b6e06a39b606a5593fdbacc6a9aa2015a93a12fd1fe21a675f5ce86.jpg

    1. “bankrupt American left”? While Trump was giving even more tax cuts to the super wealthy, the deficit has swelled from billions into a trillion. You’re not “disappointed” by the 10,000+ lies the president has told? And lollll if you really think Trump has “great diplomatic relations” with Putin. He’s Putin’s puppet and everyone knows it. Socialist policies in healthcare and education have worked great for Canada, Australia, and every other developed nation. It’s time for us to catch up.

      1. You must have missed the debate when Barry the Magnificent told Romney that thinking of Russia as a global adversary was “Cold War thinking”. You ignorant lemmings can’t make the Russian collusion canard stick no matter how many investigations you launch. You are a mirror image of the caricatures you hate.

      2. Far-left socialist policies also failed the USSR, Venezuela, China, North Korea, Cuba, East Germany, Ethiopia, Romania. America will never be predominantly socialist. Never.

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