Photogenic Ivanka is fast becoming the most controversial member of the Trump family, with a White House office and everything that space implies. She never expected this notoriety. Pre-Washington, Ivanka was better known as a socialite, mother and entrepreneur. She is also a serious art collector.
Last December, a handful of artists claimed to be receiving “death threats” from Trump supporters. This was unusual for them, although Donald Trump has been the recipient of countless death threats, including an art exhibit featuring his head in a ballot box. Bloomberg and ArtNet had featured Ivanka Trump’s art collection, as well as the flak she received over her father’s policies. Some artists have made it a campaign to conflate the two, and attempt to hold her responsible.
A group of artists and art professionals calling themselves “Halt Action Group” (HAG) are intently focused on Ivanka Trump. It hasn’t been a friendly confrontation, and Trump was targeted for a variety of reasons. One was a visceral reaction by liberal artists that the first daughter was essentially AWOL.
Ivanka had strayed from the almost pedantic, Marxist policies which all artists/ gallerists/ collectors are now required to feign. Founding HAG member Alison Gingeras confirmed as much. “Through her collecting and social appearances, Ivanka Trump belonged to a certain degree to our world,” Gingeras explained.
The art world has narrow political views and tight restraints. They are vicious to strays. HAG won’t admit this, but their relationship with Ivanka is being used to launch a boundless shaming campaign against her. The activists assembled outside Ivanka’s doors for weeks. Did they get permits first? Mayor De Blasio was likely somewhere in the crowd.
HAG scolds and nags Ivanka with patronizing little signs, Tweets and Instagram posts. Their “Dear Ivanka” campaign comes in the form of supplications and unearned guilt of various shades. Anything her father has done, promised to do, or may potentially do at some future point, is laid at her feet.
According to HAG, world peace, the fate of the human race, the arts, environment, feminism, whaling, butterfly populations, sexual practice, industry and various atmospheric gasses rest on this woman’s shoulders alone. Yes, she has that kind of power. If they truly believed Ivanka Trump was possessed of such divine potency, they would be worshipping her.
A selection of the patronizing silliness in Manhattan as Ivanka and family prepared to move to new Washington, D.C. digs: “Dear Ivanka, I’m afraid of Mike Pence and conversion therapy for kids.” Unaware that Ivanka is not president, one demands: “You must stop white nationalist appointments to Trump’s cabinet!” Another note is a clue to the mental health of the writer: “Why does the President Elect remind me of my racist grandpa?” (Probably for the same reason you fear sushi and names that start with “M,” dear HAG person.)
Paranoia is almost tangible in these protests: Fear of racism, subways, medicine, borders, conservatism, war, peace and especially change. They conflate these things, which have not yet happened, with active Fascism. HAG even shamed Ivanka over swastikas in a Brooklyn park, although the family is Jewish.
Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner had quietly and happily buzzed about New York art openings as fans and clients for at least a decade. Ivanka is proud of her collection and speaks about why she loves and values art. Works by established artists such a Nate Lowman, Dan Colen and John Baldessari, and Alex Israel adorn their walls. They especially love Wade Guyton and Cy Twombly. This couple are sophisticated art buyers who tangibly helped establish careers of emerging artists. Some of these artists are actively fighting them now – such as Lowman.
Bloomberg’s James Tarmy lamented, “She loves her art, but the artists she collects don’t love her back.” Which is not necessarily true – or at least it wasn’t until her father reached the White House. Now everything has changed. Aggrieved artists had no problem accepting large sums of cash for their work, and from the highest bidder, without stipulations.
Estimates of the Trump collection run into the millions. I’m not aware of gallery patrons ever being asked to jump hurdles of political correctness before. They need your money. This is also an oblique shot at collectors who don’t identify with leftist politics. It can’t do any good for the art business.
Proving there is a no end to pettiness on Earth, painter Alex Da Corte responded to a photo of Ivanka with his painting. “Ivanka Trump, please get my work off of your walls. I am embarrassed to be seen with you,” he demanded. Perhaps she should be embarrassed to be seen with Da Corte. Several “highly offended” artists had previously schmoozed at events with the Trumps.
Media amplifies the hysteria. Almost a month before Trump’s inauguration, an ArtNet.com headline informs us “How Donald Trump Has Hijacked Art,” which was virtually impossible. In an article that came shortly after the election entitled “Artists Lay Their Fears at Ivanka Trump’s Door,” the New York Times at least distinguished that fear was at the core. Almost two months before Trump even touching the White House, charges of devastation and “Fascism” were entirely their own construct.
An unsigned “Dear Ivanka” Instagram post perfectly summed up this joint exercise in arrogance and self-righteousness in the name of Saving Art. Positing art patrons as collectors of “the living,” a moronic Marxist screed follows: “… But that’s the game, right? The collecting game? Buying ‘cool’ from people deemed ‘cool’ by culture and exploiting all that cool stuff as set dressing in your instamercial for cheap things and fraudulent poses. …”
If taken seriously, this imbecile could convince collectors and fans they are fatally bourgeois and unworthy to darken the doors of a gallery. This is how middle-school kids think: “Who will we invite to the party?” No, Ivanka can never be “cool” or legitimate enough to hang their art on her shamefully capitalistic walls because her father was wealthy, or Republican, or she is the wrong color, or religion – or something.
The Trumps haven’t shriveled up in apologetic mortis. Ivanka continues her public love affair with art, and doesn’t care if some practitioners attempt to make it unrequited. Recently, she posed at the Hirshhorn, in Washington, D.C. It was the first stop for a traveling Yayoi Kusama exhibit of her “Infinity Mirrors.”
Ivanka is attacked because she is a soft target, more than anything else. HAG acknowledged, “Our mission is to irritate Ivanka, her family” and the administration. They admit artists have “a privileged position,” fusing power with art to make itself “more attractive and more palatable and more beautiful.” They know this because they were fully engaged in doing so for the last president.
They merely don’t like this one.