Art After Trump initiated in a small book store downtown New York after the results of the 2016 election delivered a shocking education for many on the realities of the true mindset of North American citizens. A marathon reading- no introductions, no hosts- in an open-mic format, 150 artists and arts administrators reacted to a Trump administration and the uncertain future.
The initiative was one of many. Actor Shia LaBeouf’s digital art installation at New York’s museum of the moving image attracted thousands but after violent disruptions the museum closed the demonstration and the initiative has since moved online.
The largest Art After Trump initiative is undoubtedly “Dear Ivanka”, a clap-back initiative first conceived after an artist responded to seeing his work on an Ivanka Trump instagram post. The image was a photo of Ivanka with the words “Headed to tonight’s #tonyawards and looking forward to an amazing evening! Jewels, Clutch & Shoes: #IvankaTrump @nordstrom Gown: @prabalgurung.” In the background was a sorbet-hued abstract work by the artist Alex Da Corte, who happened to see the post when scrolling through his own feed. Da Corte commented, via his Instagram handle: “Dear @ivankatrump please get my art off your walls I am embarrassed to be seen with you.”
After the post by Da Corte Dear Ivanka and the Halt Action Group initiative was born. The formula was simple: a snapshot of Trump’s older daughter’s well-heeled life—chronicled in fashion editorials and photo spreads in magazines and staged scenarios on social media—juxtaposed with a plea for help from a Halt Action Group member in the text.
Posts range from Ivanka taking a selfie in a bathroom with the words: “Dear Ivanka, I’ve been raped and I need to have an abortion.” Others, Ivanka in a photoshoot for Harper’s Bazaar with her feet up on a desk, just above “Dear Ivanka, I’m an American Muslim and I was attacked on the subway.”
Halt Action Group created Dear Ivanka in a clear context of protest. Artists cannot control what is done with work once it finds a buyer, but they can still have a voice. Halt Action Group co-founder (and independent curator) Alison Gingeras explained “Dear Ivanka” to Artnews as a reaction to the powerlessness an artist feels when seeing his or her work in a carefully constructed Instagram picture posted by Ivanka Trump.
New rules and worsening attitudes against immigrants, along with continued issues with financial controls, threaten to close off growing cultural exchanges between artistic communities between the United States and the outside world.
Fellow Halt Action Group member Alissa Bennett further explained how social media is sometimes “the single option artists have to distance themselves from the prospective policies of this administration.”