Art in the wake of Black Lives Matter

By Alejandra Mantilla

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, art has not been left out of the conversation. In many cities, monuments depicting slave traders and figures connected to racist policies were torn down or defaced. The movement has challenged the way we think about personal experiences in public spaces. Who do streets belong to, if part of the world population is unsafe in them? Who belongs to public spaces if some must confront hurtful monuments of exclusion and violence? 106257_autoaufkleber-black-lives-matter_1

The question regarding what to do with these monuments is hard and there are many propositions. For example, Banksy proposed a solution that involved putting the Statue of Edward Colston back in its place, but adding statues of protesters taking the monument down as a way to commemorate the protests. Graffiti has also taken an important role in this, as it is a way to take back public space. The immediacy of the medium has allowed artists worldwide to react to this event and to render it in everyday environments, such as the Black Lives Matter signs painted on streets all over the US. The movement has even impacted magazine covers, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many magazines unable to plan photoshoots have opted to commission black artists to create portraits for their covers.

Nonetheless, there is a preoccupation with the movement being hijacked by white artists and companies who are piggybacking on someone else’s struggle to get attention for themselves. Museums have also been criticized for not applying their social media support to their own collections and administrative structures. The call to act and donate instead of just voicing support has been a recurrent theme. However, exhibitions like Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic at the Brooklyn Museum help bring this discussion to the art world. Thus, it is essential for the art world to understand the problem of racism as more than a passing fad, and for it to engage with questions of justice and representation beyond social media.In ODBK we are working to create real equality in the art world. But we can not do it without your help: Join ODBK!