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.’
Editor in Chief