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An image from the Million March Minnesota in Minneapolis (2014) (photograph by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr)

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Last year I woke up one morning to see my name circulating through an Artnet newsletter identified as the person behind the Instagram account @cancelartgalleries. My little gallery Housing (with a smaller budget than most) was smeared as the anonymous account that exposes racism in the art world. I soon became a pariah of the art world, a pariah of anti-racism, which is absurd in its own right. The writer of the newsletter article, a White man named Nate Freeman, whom I had known in passing, never, as far as I know, attempted to fact check or inquire whether this rumor (started by a well-known White woman artist) was true. It was simply assumed that the person who would orchestrate the publicizing of grievances against the art world would be the Black woman gallerist, the Black woman gallerist who is not working for a powerful White man, the Black woman gallerist who speaks her mind, the Black woman gallerist who has nothing to lose in pursuit of power in a white supremacist, patriarchal system. 

I have always been vocal about the inherent anti-Blackness of the art scene within the United States, but that does not grant a license to scapegoat me for its rampant white supremacy or question my ability to state my grievances about it without anonymity. 

This open letter is not intended to elicit pity, and I am not naive enough to hope for understanding. It is to state that nothing has changed since George Floyd’s murder. Black people in positions of power within the art scene do not amend the centuries of erasure and violence against Black bodies — specifically Black women. It is mere tokenization. These positions do not erase the inequalities and obstacles most Black people face in breaking into an industry that is dependent upon the exploitation of Black bodies and Black artists’ willingness to be used to further the agenda of white exceptionalism. 

First on February 17th, 2021, and then again on August 5th, 2021, I’ve found my name posted on a well-known White art figure’s large social media platform, Kenny Schachter, as he continues to spread a rumor that was manufactured for two reasons: to erase my voice and to continue to marginalize and other me, someone who refuses to participate in the hegemonic circle jerk that is this art world. I witnessed board members, collectors, and other members of this community congratulate Schachter on this assault because of their grievances about “cancel culture” or, more to the point, to affirm their own white fragility. There is no greater bully than racism and anti-Blackness, and I am not immune from their predations, even though I am not the perfect victim. I might be if I were a trailblazer for the neoliberal agenda of inclusion, but I stand on my word.

At the height of the #MeToo movement, a video circulated of Courtney Love stating: “If Harvey Weinstein asks to take a meeting at the Peninsula, do not go,” which was a clip from a red-carpet event 10 years prior to the Ronan Farrow article. What you can gather from that timeline is: No one wants to hear that from Courtney Love. We, as a society, only want to believe the perfect victim, a victim of the status quo, a victim who allows us to maintain our prejudices — in my case a victim who allows us to maintain our anti-Blackness. 

There can be no anti-racist art world within a racist society. I ask Artnet to make a public retraction of the anti-Black rumor published and furthered by them. I also ask for both Nate Freeman and Kenny Schachter to be held accountable. Do not uplift their use of anti-Blackness to silence Black people, and if you do, you will continue to be complicit in the racism of the art world and its effects on the livelihoods and physical bodies of Black people — especially femmes who dare to pushback against its reward system for White violence and mediocrity. 

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KJ Freeman

KJ Freeman is the co-founder of HOUSING, which since 2016 has been a safe haven for Black artists and artists of color railing against gentrification in New York. The gallery sits in direct opposition...

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