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Ursula: Issue 4

In early August, a field of Democrats still too large to number gathered in Detroit for a second round of presidential debates. A few days earlier, the Supreme Court issued a decision giving the White House permission to use billions in Defense Department funds to wall up America’s border with Mexico.

Amid these pieces of news, we were laying out the pages of our cover story, a conversation between Agnes Gund, the great collector and activist philanthropist, and Mark Bradford, the great artist and activist philanthropist, in which the two friends talk mostly about social justice and their work on its behalf in the world beyond what is often seen as the art world’s border, a distinction that both — along with a growing number of their counterparts — see as specious. As the artist Nayland Blake wrote recently on Twitter: ‘The point is not to make an art world of absolute moral purity. The point is to stop pretending that you don’t have to answer to your fellow citizens once you step inside of a museum.’ The same, of course, could be said of galleries and foundations and artists’ studios. Much in this issue speaks to that challenge.

Situating art’s place in citizenry has always been fraught and will grow only more so as conceptions of social justice broaden and deepen in a new generation. I’ve always agreed with the sentiment Trotsky once expressed in a letter to The Partisan Review in 1938 about art’s relation to the world, set within his terms at the time: ‘Art can become a strong ally of revolution only in so far as it remains faithful to itself.’ But this principle does not mean that artists and art institutions are in any way absolved of political responsibility, even among—indeed because of—the vast contradictions of privilege within the art world. As Hans Haacke once told me: ‘Yes, you do get your hands dirty, so to speak, and if you stay out of it, you might be pure. But you might also have no effect whatsoever. Unless you want to start throwing bombs, but that’s another story.’

Randy Kennedy
Editor in Chief

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Stories In This Issue

Agnes Gund and Mark Bradford on Art and Social Justice

Against a backdrop of powerful social-justice movements now underway in the United States and around the world—deeply embattled efforts to bring about what the essayist Masha Gessen has described as ‘an entirely different structure of power’. Pioneering collector and former president of the Museum of Modern Art, Agnus Gund, recently sat down with esteemed artist and activist, Mark Bradford, to discuss art and social justice.
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Maria Lassnig: To Be Many Kinds

Maria Lassnig pioneered a daring, deeply psychological version of postmodern figuration, and during her long career—which remained in the shadows until she was in her 60s—she orbited within a farflung social solar system of artists, writers and curators. On the centenary of her birth, a host of voices assemble to commemorate her life.
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A conversation between Iggy Pop and Stefan Brüggemann

Following Stefan Brüggemann’s collaboration with Iggy Pop for his exhibition in Fall 2018, ‘Hyper-Palimpsest’ at Hauser & Wirth London, the artist and the punk pioneer met to discuss art, music, improvisation and language as a virus; Moderated by curator Mathieu Copeland.
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Leave a Little Space

This past July, Olivier Renaud-Clément, Peter Sellars and Caroline Bourgeois sat down with groundbreaking conductor Teodor Currentzis, ahead of the annual Salzburg Festival, where he was preparing to conduct Mozart’s Idomeneo, directed by the indomitable Sellars.
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