Earlier this year, artist Dana Schutz's work "Open Casket" caused overwhelming backlash when it was displayed at the Whitney Biennial, with detractors saying its depiction of the body of Emmett Till was racially insensitive given that Schutz is white. After strong debate within the artistic community over whether a white artist can use black suffering as artistic inspiration, the painting was removed.



At the time, Schutz told ArtNet, "The anger surrounding this painting is real and I understand that. It's a problematic painting and I knew that getting into it. I do think that it is better to try to engage something extremely uncomfortable, maybe impossible, and fail, than to not respond at all."

The backlash for Schutz didn't end there, though.

Led by a collective of Boston-based artists, a new protest aimed at blocking her latest exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art is underway. A letter from the group addressed to ICA curator Eva Respini said, "We were hoping to hear the ICA resist the narrative that Black people can be sacrificed for the greater good. The ICA has the responsibility to challenge dominant narratives, the appropriation of Black pain, and their role in history as institutions and individuals uplifting imagery with the potential to incite violence."

The exhibition, which does not include "Open Casket," went ahead anyway, and is planned to run until November.

Now, 78 members of the National Academy, including famed artists like Marina Abramovic, Cindy Sherman, Chuck Close and Kara Walker have written their own letter of support for Schutz and the ICA.

"As fellow artists and architects, we wholeheartedly support cultural institutions like the ICA Boston who refuse to bow to forces in favor of censorship or quelling dialogue," they wrote. "It is also of the utmost importance to us that artists not perpetrate upon each other the same kind of intolerance and tyranny that we criticize in others."

They continued, "We support the ICA-Boston and its decision to exhibit the works of Dana Schutz, and to maintain programming that fosters conversations between people with different points of view, especially given our current political climate of intolerance."

Here is the full letter:

August 3, 2017

As members of the National Academy, we would like to voice our unequivocal support for Dana Schutz, who was recently excoriated by a group of Boston artists who were demanding that her current exhibition at the ICA in Boston be canceled, a demand meant to penalize Schutz, the artist behind Open Casket, a controversial painting featured at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, which draws on the well-known photograph of Emmett Till lying disfigured in his casket.

This painting is not included in the ICA exhibition.

As fellow artists and architects, we wholeheartedly support cultural institutions like the ICA-Boston who refuse to bow to forces in favor of censorship or quelling dialogue.

It is also of the utmost importance to us that artists not perpetrate upon each other the same kind of intolerance and tyranny that we criticize in others.

We support the ICA-Boston and its decision to exhibit the works of Dana Schutz, and to maintain programming that fosters conversations between people with different points of view, especially given our current political climate of intolerance.

Sig Abeles, NA

Marina Abramovic, NA-Elect

Stan Allen, NA

Polly Apfelbaum, NA

Dotty Attie, NA

Judith Bernstein, NA-Elect

Robert Birmelin, NA

Willard Boepple, NA

Richard Bosman, NA

Gregory Botts, NA

Pau Broches, NA-Elect

Henry Casselli, NA

Walter Chatham, NA

Chuck Close, NA

William Clutz, NA

Lisa Corinne Davis, NA-Elect

Donna Dennis, NA

Jane Dickson, NA

Rackstraw Downes, NA

Jackie Ferrara, NA-Elect

Louise Fishman, NA

Andrew Ginzel, NA

Jacqueline Gourevitch, NA

Philip Grausman, NA

Barbara Grossman, NA

Richard Haas, NA

Nancy Hagin, NA

Ann Hamilton, NA

Walter Hatke, NA

Julie Heffernan, NA

Nona Hershey, NA

Diana Horowitz, NA

David Humphrey, NA

Valerie Jaudon, NA

Roberto Juarez, NA

Harriet Korman, NA

Joyce Kozloff, NA

Tuck Langland, NA

Pat Lasch, NA

Jonathan Lasker, NA

Mel Leipzig, NA

Alfred Leslie, NA

James McGarrell, NA

Melissa Meyer, NA

Raoul Middleman, NA

John Moore, NA

John Newman, NA

Catherine Opie, NA-Elect

Tom Otterness, NA

Anthony Panzera, NA

Philip Pearlstein, NA

Judy Pfaff, NA-Elect

Ed Ruscha, NA-Elect

Joseph Santore, NA

Peter Saul, NA

Dread Scott, NA-Elect

Annabelle Selldorf, NA

Arlene Shechet, NA

Laura Shechter, NA

Cindy Sherman, NA-Elect

James Siena, NA

Elena Sisto, NA

Richard Sloat, NA

Joan Snyder, NA

Gary Stephan, NA

Jessica Stockholder, NA

Immi Storrs, NA

Altoon Sultan, NA

Barbara Takenaga, NA

Claire Van Vliet, NA

Don Voisine, NA

Kara Walker, NA-Elect

Susan Jane Walp, NA

Sharon Wandel, NA

Leslie Wayne, NA

Stephen Westfall, NA

Jack Whitten, NA-Elect


[h/t Jezebel]