On the Whitney Controversy

Art, on its own, is powerless to change political realities.

Earlier this week, the video artist and Artforum darling Hannah Black penned an open letter protesting the inclusion of a 2016 Dana Schutz painting in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Titled “Open Casket,” it depicts the dead body of Emmett Till, a teenager who was tortured and lynched after being falsely accused of flirting with a white woman in 1955 Mississippi. (His mother, Mamie Till, held an open casket funeral for him, so the whole world could come face to face with the horrors of American racism, hence the title of the work.) A dark episode in the nation’s history, it is a reminder, seven decades on, just how little things have changed.