With all the socio-political turmoil buffeting the nation (and much of Europe) at present, it is surprising how much attention and vociferous debate has resulted from the exhibition of Dana Schutz's painting "Open Casket" (2016) at the Whitney Biennial. The painting, which is based on a photograph of the funeral of Emmett Till in which his mutilated body was displayed, has been the subject of widespread criticism and number of demands, including the suggestion that the work should be destroyed.
Today, co-curator of the Biennial Christopher Lew weighed in with his thoughts. Although the controversy has highlighted concerns that will not be easily resolved, Lew raises some good points--including the fact most people criticizing Schutz's painting have not seen the work in person or in the context of the entire Biennial. In that respect, it recalls some of the art controversies of the 1980s and 1990s, such as the row over the New Museum's exhibition of Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary."
Photo © 2016 Scott Rudd