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Protesters Demand Emmett Till Artist Dana Schutz Be Banned in Boston


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Dana Schutz’s controversial Open Casket painting is no longer on view at the Whitney Biennial exhibition, which ended on June 11, but the artist remains persona non grata in the eyes of many artists and activists who insist she exploited black suffering in her work.  

A handful of them have called for the Institute of Contemporary art in Boston to cancel a new solo exhibition of Schutz’s work, accusing the museum of cultural insensitivity and giving Schutz an undeserved platform.

Schutz’s Open Casket painting of Emmett Till, the African-American teenager who was famously lynched to death by bigots in 1955, incited (unheeded) calls by artists and activists for the painting’s removal from the Whitney Biennial—and for its destruction.

The painting provoked a heated and complex debate about racial appropriation and representation in contemporary art, and whether artists like Schutz have the right to draw on experiences of other identities and ethnicities in their work.

Open Casket is not featured in Schutz’s solo exhibition at the ICA Boston, which the museum first began working on two years ago. But local artists and activists insist that none of Schutz’s work should be displayed in a museum setting.

“Please pull the show,” they wrote in an open letter to the ICA Boston on July 25, the day before the exhibition opened. “This is not about censorship. This is about institutional accountability, as the institutions working with the artist are even now not acknowledging that this nation is not an even playing field…[Open Casket’s] absence from the exhibition does not excuse the institution from engaging with the harm caused by the work by holding Dana Schutz accountable.”


The letter comes after a July 20 meeting between some of its signatories and the exhibition’s curator, Eva Respini, along with other representatives of the ICA Boston. Several local artists had expressed their opposition to the show on the museum’s Facebook page earlier this month. The museum responded that day and proposed an in-person gathering to discuss the artists’ concerns, which—their letter states—the museum has failed to adequately address.



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