Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Art to Hang in the White House? Open Thread

Ruthie Ackerman assembled a list of recommendations from a group of artists, dealers [including yours truly], curators, and bloggers for what art the First Family should hang in the White House. As Ms. Ackerman explains:
Now that the Obamas have settled into the White House, the First Family is focusing on what art to hang on the walls, a thrilling and anxiety-producing prospect for collectors, curators, and artists. What pieces Barack and Michelle decide on has wide-ranging implications: about what art and artists should be on the radar and how much their work is worth. While the couple can hang anything they want in their residence and offices, pieces hung in public places must be approved by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, which consists of the White House curator and advisory board.

The decision is a tough one, so we thought we’d give the Obamas a hand. We asked 21 of our favorite artists, dealers, curators, and bloggers to tell us what pieces they think should grace the White House walls.

I chose three artists (after noting in a comment that didn't make it into the article for some reason that really the Obamas should decorate the White House exclusively with artwork by Winkleman Gallery artists, but...) whom I felt had a political and/or philosophical resonance with the symbolism of the Obama Presidency.

Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning. In addition to representing Main Street in a small American town, there’s a hopeful, if somewhat somber, feel to this painting. This seems to describe the state of the country at the moment. We’re war weary and very nervous about the economy, but we’re encouraged by Obama’s message of hope and the true breakthrough in our history that his presidency represents.

“Jacob Lawrence’s ‘The Great Migration.’ This series of paintings seems a nice choice for two reasons. First, it is among the earliest major works by an African-American artist to be widely celebrated. It took ages for the entire series to be unified in one institution, which perhaps parallels the struggle it took for the U.S. to unite behind its first non-white president. Secondly, the series itself depicts the struggle of African-Americans to find their way out of the still highly racist South into the Northern, Midwestern, and Western states, in search of a better life after the end of slavery.

Cy Twombly’s ‘Scattered Blossom’ paintings represent one of our last living legends making astounding contemporary art. The symbolism of including Twombly in the White House is one of embracing the cutting edge. That seems highly relevant for a president whose challenge is to break with so many of the trappings of our past, including our dependence on fossil fuels, our dilapidated infrastructure, our imperialistic arrogance, etc.”

Yes, I've gone a bit more traditional here than one might expect. But that's just because I wanted to recommend work that I felt might actually be selected, so that if it is, I'll look all prescient and what not.

But what would you recommend that Michele and Barack hang in the White House?

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9 Comments:

Blogger Tom Hering said...

Somewhere in the Oval Office, there's got to be a spot for the original of this. Wouldn't surprise me if it's hanging there already.

6/23/2009 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous nemastoma said...

I would also suggest work by African American artists who spent a great part of their lives living in the vicinity of the White House in Washington D.C., such as a draped canvas by Sam Gilliam for their private quarters (Gilliam is still alive)
and some Oval Drawings in the Oval Office by Eugene J. Martin

6/23/2009 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Ed, I like your choices, they were a surprise.

I would add Alice Neel - almost anything but suggestions would be: "Cindy" 1960, "Hartley" 1952, or "Rita and Hubert" 1958, all are currently being exhibited at David Zwirner

Alice Neel represents the best of the American representational painters which ran historically parallel to American Abstraction in the 40's through 60's.

6/23/2009 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your choices. Would also suggest Alice Neel (and Joan Mitchell, Lorna Simpson...)

6/23/2009 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous coyle said...

totally unrealistic, but it would be pretty awesome if the Obamas went somehwere in this direction:

Bruce Nauman "Clown Torture"

John Lennon/Yoko One "Bed Piece and Hair Piece Posters"

Felix Gonzalez Torrez---almost anything.

6/23/2009 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Three short articles on the choices the Obamas are making.

The Reliable Source, January 13. 20th Century American artists.

Times Online, February 22. Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha.

Pia Catton, May 22. Jasper Johns, Richard Diebenkorn, Ed Ruscha. Modern art by African-American, Asian, Hispanic and female artists. Josef Albers, Edgar Degas (bronzes), Nicolas de Stael.

6/23/2009 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

Lots of black velvet portraits of Martin Luther King with holographic eyes that follow you round the room.

6/23/2009 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Katharine Smith-Warren said...

I'd love to see a collection of significant photography: Robert Frank, Stephen Shore,Robert Adams,Laura Gilpin, Helen Levitt, Walker Evans etc etc.

6/23/2009 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Stefano RockawayBeach Pasquini said...

Maybe he could have this hanging out of his window.

6/25/2009 07:49:00 PM  

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