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Art Protests From The Last Few Months You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

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Chances are, you recall something happening with hipster looking folk hating on the artist Renoir. That’s because last October the fine art world and the 24-hour news circus merged into a sputtering, quivering mass of “look at this thing!” when the group Renoir Sucks at Painting (RSAP) cheekily picketed the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston over a glut of works by Renoir and dearth of works by artists of literally any identification besides white male.

RSAP has a great message. Sure, they get a little hyperbolic about just how much Renoir sucked (for real, every great artist has a flop), but they’re certainly right that the museum world needs to detox off the white male artist. The thing is, there’re so many groups and movements out there telling this story and others, all of which are trying to bring worthwhile change to the museums we love. But these other groups and movements get a fraction of RSAP’s airtime at best, largely because the heavyweight messaging goes beyond making a poopy face in front of obviously terrible painting.

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No, God hates people who don’t plan out their kerning. Are you not familiar with Pope Diacritic’s Edict of Helvetica? Heathen.

I want to help correct this. Take a look below at some of the most important art protests from the last few months that you, as an art lover and a human being, deserve to know are going on. Museums and galleries are institutions just like any other. Change can only happen if we’re all looped in to the same conversation.

Where is Ana Mendieta?

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Pictured: Ana Mendieta doing her Hercule Poirot thang.

The death of Ana Mendieta is, in a word, tragic. One night in 1984, a dispute with her husband, the sculptor Carl Andre, ended with Ana plummeting 34 floors from their apartment to the street. Carl, who’s still alive and working as an artist, was acquitted of murdering Ana in 1985. Maintaining that Ana fell out of their apartment’s window completely by accident (again, in the midst of a heated argument). The story is a stark example of how America’s laissez-faire attitude toward intimate partner violence leaves women without recourse for justice in the face of incontrovertible evidence of transgressions against their person.

For their part, the Tate doesn’t seem to understand why promoting works by Andre might cause some outrage. The Tate recently opened up an extension for its collection billed with the slogan “Art Changes. We Change.” The only problem is, despite having numerous works by Mendieta in their collection, the Tate chose to sideline her work in favor of displaying Andre’s. A group has formed called WHEREISANAMENDIETA with one of their most immediate goals being to help the Tate realize that they jumped the shark on this tone deaf approach to change. While WHEREISANAMENDIETA is only a few days old (their protests outside the Tate only started on June 14, 2016), they are envisioning a grander purpose: to act as an archive for “artists who are female, non binary or people of colour in retaliation (sic) to erasure.”

#stoperasingblackpeople

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Pictured: Tacoma Action Collective doing a die-in because people in power are idiots.

On paper, the Tacoma Art Museum’s exhibition titled Art AIDS America was an idea that everyone should be totally on board with. But, the exhibit’s goal of exploring “the whole spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS" came up woefully short with the revelation late last year that only 4 of the 107 artists featured are Black. Considering the Black community suffers from AIDS disproportionately to the rest of the population — accounting for 44% of new American HIV infections in 2010 and 41% of Americans living with HIV in 2011 — offering a roster made up of just ~3.5% Black artists seems pretty idiotic.

A local group called the Tacoma Action Collective decided to organize allies and artists to take this bull lying down by coordinating die-ins at the Tacoma Art Museum. Putting the dangers of the exhibit’s cultural erasure front and center. The demonstration, called #stoperasingblackpeople, struck a chord, resulting in a commitment from Tacoma Art Museum to invest in diversity training for its current staff and to make a concerted effort to reflect the Black experience in both future exhibitions and hirings. TAC is even scheduled to present on #stoperasingblackpeople at the 2016 International AIDS Conference in South Africa. Bravo, Tacoma Action Collective.

Tate, Liberated

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Pictured: Liberate Tate casting the devil (AKA British Petroleum) out of the Tate.

Liberate Tate had one goal: get British Petroleum’s unctuous cash out of the Tate’s coffers. After six years of wild protests, from the exorcism pictured above to veiled performers tossing £240,000 into the air, BP finally listened. Announcing in March 2016 that they’d take their dirty money somewhere else.

Full disclosure, BP made it very clear that the public pressure from Liberate Tate’s dramatic protests had absolutely nothing to do with the decision to end this relationship. The spill happy petroleum giant claimed that it was all about their bottom line in a protracted rough market for oil companies. While that’s partially true (BP posted profits last year off by 91%), Tate was only receiving a share of a £10 million sponsorship BP doles out to art organizations in Britain. Speaking of which, BP’s support for those other organizations (the British Museum, Royal Opera House, and the Royal Shakespeare Company) will continue unimpacted. So, signs point to Liberate Tate causing enough rancour to kick oil money out of the museum. Huzzah!

By Clayton

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Clayton Schuster

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