But parks like this are not oases, nor are they a public good. Since New York City’s High Line opened in 2009, high-designed green spaces with major private funding, like the 606 in Chicago and the BeltLine in Atlanta, have become reliable tools to increase property values and spur luxury development, uprooting working people from previously affordable neighborhoods in the process—in other words, tools to engineer gentrification. Originally conceived by civic-minded community members, the High Line today is a model for cities and investors who want to remake whole neighborhoods for the wealthy.

Little Island, for its part, seems more like a death rattle than a new stage of life. The park was funded by media magnate Barry Diller and will be overseen by the Hudson River Park Trust, a nonprofit created in 1998 by New York State to develop parkland along a stretch of Manhattan’s shoreline. While Little Island is technically public, it has no clear purpose but to sell us a billionaire’s sleek SimCity fantasy. What happens when a neighborhood reaches saturation point for gentrification, and a city simply gives up the ruse that it’s anything other than a playground for tourists, the “creative class,” and absentee real estate investors? Little Island may offer the first true post-High Line answer.

The need to confront the issue is as urgent now as it was when Rego created her series. Art can be a powerful tool: the impact of Rego’s series was so significant it has been credited with helping sway Portuguese public opinion towards a second, successful referendum in 2007.

Rego’s work is being displayed at Tate Britain at an especially poignant time, as the UK government is currently examining whether to make at-home abortions a permanent option in England. Introduced temporarily during the pandemic, the measure allows those up to 10 weeks pregnant to receive the medical pills necessary for a termination in the post. It removes the need to travel to a clinic, making access easier for the most vulnerable in society.

Second surprise: Nearby, two small paintings made in California in the 1920s amplify the possibilities for discovery by artists who aren’t widely known. Miki Hayakawa (1899–1953) and Yun Gee (1906–63), immigrants to the Bay Area from Japan and China, respectively, and students together at the California School of Fine Arts, encapsulate a fractured, tumultuous period.

Hayakawa’s portrait of a handsome, dapper young Black man derives from the Postimpressionist technique of Paul Cézanne. Both the figure and its abstract space are chiseled from an orderly patchwork of short, considered brushstrokes.

When it comes to the visual arts, we have to credit Dutch artists for making bubbles a popular subject. In 1574, the Dutch painter Cornelis Ketel depicted a husky putto (cherub) standing against a cloudy sky on a bed of grass, in the act blowing bubbles. The inscription above, in Greek, reads “man is a bubble.” This panel is on the reverse of a portrait of Adam Wachendorff, the secretary of the London offices of the Hanseatic League, a trading alliance of European cities.

“It is likely that Ketel’s painting provides the first appearance of a soap bubble, as opposed to the more traditional air bubble on a water surface as in the Dialogue of Lucian,” writes the mathematician Michele Emmer in the journal Leonardo. (In 2019, Emmer curated a monographic exhibition on bubbles across the arts in Perugia, Italy.) In 1594, Hendrik Goltzius completed bubble- and putto-themed engravings that cemented the soap bubble as an enduring theme in Dutch art. In one titled “Homo Bulla,” a putto languidly leans on a skull as he absent-mindedly looks at the bubbles he just blew.

In her letter to the editor, Kimberly Orcutt writes, “The traditional definition of racism, as I understand it, is words, actions, or attitudes that show prejudice based on race.” While it may be true that this is in some respects a traditional definition of the term, it is equally true that it is a somewhat flattened one. By focusing on instances of racism enacted or espoused by individual people or institutions, it ignores the systems of power that support inequity. Systemic, structural, or institutional racism, unlike traditional definitions of racism, offers a corrective by opening up the conversation to include discussion of the accumulated beliefs, policies, practices, and patterns of discrimination that have assumed the superiority of white people and devalued and threatened the lives of people of color. Or as best-selling author of So You Want to Talk About Race Ijeoma Oluo succinctly puts it: “racism [is] a prejudice against someone based on race, when those prejudices are reinforced by systems of power.”1 Art, as a social system, participates in the exploitation, minoritization, and marginalization of people of color, and therefore its study engages in this discussion, as well. As noted by Director of the Peabody Museum Jane Pickering, “Museums and archives today are in the throes of profound change as they grapple with the fraught legacies of colonialism, imperialism, and slavery—all of which played fundamental roles in building cultural institutions of the Western world. Exploring and acknowledging the complex histories of their institutions, scholars and museum professionals are scrutinizing with new eyes the objects, documents, and photographs housed and curated in these collections.”2 We at Panorama are a part of this re-evaluation and reassessment, as we publish scholarship that engages with museum collections, institutions, and archives.

  • Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie has written an essay on her personal website, and her commentary about her students is something I think a lot of people will be able to relate to:

In certain young people today like these two from my writing workshop, I notice what I find increasingly troubling: a cold-blooded grasping, a hunger to take and take and take, but never give; a massive sense of entitlement; an inability to show gratitude; an ease with dishonesty and pretension and selfishness that is couched in the language of self-care; an expectation always to be helped and rewarded no matter whether deserving or not; language that is slick and sleek but with little emotional intelligence; an astonishing level of self-absorption; an unrealistic expectation of puritanism from others; an over-inflated sense of ability, or of talent where there is any at all; an inability to apologize, truly and fully, without justifications; a passionate performance of virtue that is well executed in the public space of Twitter but not in the intimate space of friendship.

I find it obscene.

Things start off slow in the simulation, but the civilization’s rate of spread really picks up once the power of exponential growth kicks in. But that’s only part of the story; the expansion rate is heavily influenced by the increased density of stars near the galactic center and a patient policy, in which the settlers wait for the stars to come to them, a result of the galaxy spinning on its axis.

The whole process, in which the entire inner galaxy is settled, takes one billion years. That sounds like a long time, but it’s only somewhere between 7% and 9% the total age of the Milky Way galaxy. 

Fox, the leading propaganda outlet for the GOP, plays a key role in this strategy. The network has mentioned “critical race theory” nearly 1,300 times over the past three and a half months. The purportedly sinister spread of “critical race theory” provides a perfect framework for Fox’s technique of highlighting local concerns to fuel the culture war. The network supercharges the individual, at times dubious, stories that filter up with the help of nationally backed local activists, other right-wing outlets, and social media. Fox has targeted the purported influence of “critical race theory” in corporate America, the military, and particularly schools, hosting parents, teachers, and other educators to talk about how they don’t want it taught in their communities.

In several of those cases, the locals Fox has highlighted are also Republican strategists, conservative think-tankers, or right-wing media figures — ties the network has downplayed or ignored altogether. This trend is particularly notable when Fox covers “critical race theory” controversies in Northern Virginia, a bedroom community for Washington, D.C., in a state where GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has sought to make his opposition a central issue in the fall.

But as America slouches toward plutocracy, our problem isn’t the virtue level of billionaires. It’s a set of social arrangements that make it possible for anyone to gain and guard and keep so much wealth, even as millions of others lack for food, work, housing, health, connectivity, education, dignity and the occasion to pursue their happiness.

There is no way to be a billionaire in America without taking advantage of a system predicated on cruelty, a system whose tax code and labor laws and regulatory apparatus prioritize your needs above most people’s. Even noted Good Billionaire Mr. Buffett has profited from Coca-Cola’s sugary drinks, Amazon’s union busting, Chevron’s oil drilling, Clayton Homes’s predatory loans and, as the country learned recently, the failure to tax billionaires on their wealth.

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it 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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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.