Activist efforts targeting the Whitney Museum of American Art across the 1960s and ’70s provide a starting point to consider the ways in which activists today can effect meaningful changes.
“We’re like the roadies of the art world,” states Shane Caffrey in his 2010 video announcement for the first Art Handling Olympics. “It’s not an art piece, it’s a community event … it’s a thing for a community that has never really had any chance to get together.”
Early last March, London’s Conservative mayor Boris Johnson unveiled Hans Haacke’s “Gift Horse,” the tenth commission installed on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth.
How are artists who have been systematically denied fair wages and access to basic services like healthcare and unemployment protections gaining access to those things today?
A few times during her talk last week, historian and curator Yasmin Ramírez looked over at the copy of Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era by Julia Bryan-Wilson sitting on the table in front of her. It wasn’t a look of love. Each time she referenced the book it was, at least in part, with a sense of frustration that despite being one of the only books devoted to the subject of the Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC), Bryan-Wilson largely left out the involvement of black and Puerto Rican artists, who played critical roles in the efforts of the group.