|2:45 pm, March 22, 2017.
A group of black artists are protesting a painting by white New York City artist Dana Schutz for racial insensitivity.
Several artists stood in front of the painting, currently on display at the 2017 Whitney Biennial on Friday, physically blocking it from view for several hours.
The work, entitled “Open Casket”(2016), is based on a famous photograph from the funeral of Emmett Till—a 14-year-old African American boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being falsely accused of flirting with a white woman.
Schutz’s painting depicts Till’s dead body lying in the open-coffin, his mutilated face and chest turned towards the viewer. The boy’s casket was left open at his mother’s request for everyone to witness the brutality of the racist attack to which he’d been victim
One of the artists protesting the work, Parker Bright, wore a t-shirt with the slogan “Black Death Spectacle” on the back and “No lynch mob” on the front.
“I wanted to confront people with a living, breathing black body” he told the Guardian.
Citing the appropriation of black suffering by white artists as another example of systemic racial oppression, British-born artist Hannah Black penned an open letter to the museum curators demanding that the painting not only be removed, but “destroyed” and “prevented from entering any market or museum.”
“The subject matter is not Schutz’s,” Black wrote on Facebook. “White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.”
The note was signed by other artists of color, including Juliana Huxtable. “Although Schutz’s intention may be to present white shame, this shame is not correctly represented as a painting of a dead Black boy by a white artist—those non-black artists who sincerely wish to highlight the shameful nature of white violence should first of all stop treating black pain as raw material.”