ABOVE: SIGNS FROM THE DEAR IVANKA PROTEST ON MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2016. PHOTO COURTESY OF BALARAMA HELLER.
Not long ago, within the notoriously interconnected circles of New York’s cultural community, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner would have almost been considered members of the art world. The couple avidly collect works by contemporary artists such as Nate Lowman and Alex Da Corte, and have been known to appear at museum and gallery openings. Some of Ivanka’s art world relationships, in particular, trace as far back as her silver-spooned upbringing on the Upper East Side. So when her father’s presidential campaign (and win) set her on an unlikely course toward national politics, a coalition of artists, curators, writers, and gallerists decided to use Ivanka’s proximity—socially speaking—to deliver a series of targeted messages about President-elect Trump.
It began last week with a new Instagram account called @dear_ivanka, started by the Halt Action Group, whose organizers include curator Alison Gingeras and artist Jonathan Horowitz. On @dear_ivanka, glamorous images of the future first daughter are captioned with notes of concern or anger submitted online. One photo reads: “@dear_ivanka I’m afraid for all my friends who aren’t white men…” Another: “@dear_ivanka My twelve year old daughter came home from school in tears. A classmate told her Mike Pence says her two daddies are sick and have to be given electro shock therapy…” Gingeras and Horowitz then decided to take things I.R.L, and organized a candlelight vigil in SoHo on Monday evening.
“It was moving to see a coalition of people come together in a very organic way—the artist/cultural participants that we directly solicited came out in strong numbers, their extended circles of friends and colleagues joined, and more importantly people who had no direct association—passersby, interested citizens, neighbors, activists from other groups—came out in force,” Gingeras says. “It felt really good. That kind of agency was in itself an achievement.”
Gingeras and Horowitz, Rob Pruitt, Marilyn Minter, Jordan Wolfson, Sam McKinniss, Bill Powers, and Cecily Brown were among the art world luminaries drawn to the corner of Houston and Lafayette Streets (in front of the Puck Building, which Kushner’s parents own and where he and Ivanka reportedly keep a penthouse). In true art world form, their posters were worthy of framing, including many that riffed on art history—artist Rachel Libeskind’s imagined Ivanka in the style of an 18th-century religious icon.
“With my art, it’s usually just making art. Even with the work that’s explicitly political, I’m under no illusion that it will change things,” Horowitz says. “But everything feels different now. I foresee the activism and the art starting to converge.”
According to Gingeras, Halt and all “its various actions/guises/activities” will continue to grow and take shape. “Like all concerned citizens, we see no end in sight as long as there are fundamental threats to human rights, democracy, civil society—our collective activities and our need to organize and be vocal as individuals is more crucial than ever,” she says.