In a ‘Mass Art Protest,’ Artists Across America Drew Trump Playing Golf on the NYTimes Cover Memorializing the 100,000 Coronavirus Dead

Marcel Dzama and other artists protested the Memorial Day golf trip as "beyond disrespectful."

Marcel Dzama's watercolor of President Donald Trump playing golf superimposed over the New York Times coronavirus cover. Photo courtesy of Marcel Dzama.

This past weekend, the New York Times devoted the entire cover of its Sunday edition to a partial listing of the nearly 100,000 people in the US who have died from the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump went golfing at his course in Virginia to celebrate Memorial Day weekend—and it prompted a fury of artistic responses.

Illustrator Steve Brodner put out the call on Twitter for a “mass art protest idea,” asking artists to draw Trump playing golf on top of the New York Times‘s list of names, below the headline “US Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss.”

“It was an idea that I wanted to do myself. Then I thought, it was so straight ahead, everybody should do it. Golfing against the backdrop of profound loss and grief,” Brodner told Artnet News in an email. “It tuned out it was something people really wanted to do. And they came through beautifully.”

The artist Marcel Dzama contributed a delicate watercolor illustration, taking care to ensure that the names remained legible beneath the paint.

“I was so gutted and moved by the sheer enormity of all of those names of people who had died of this virus that I wanted to make something. I couldn’t sleep, and working helps me,” Dzama told Artnet News in an email. “We look to our leaders to guide us when we are helpless, and when I looked to ours, he was playing golf. It was beyond disrespectful to all of the lives lost.”

“The enormity of the loss is hard to grasp. What does 100,000 dead even look like?” Brodner wondered. “The Times gave it a shot with this idea. Our refinement holds the list, while highlighting the failure of the White House to lead.”

Brodner has also been memorializing the dead in an ongoing series called “MISSING.” Each day, he posts a new drawing on Instagram of someone who has died from the virus. But as the death count has risen, the effort has come to feel like a drop in the bucket.

Before his election, Trump was highly critical of the golfing habits of his predecessor, Barack Obama. “President Obama has a major meeting on the NYC Ebola outbreak, with people flying in from all over the country, but decided to play golf!” he once tweeted.

On the campaign trail, Trump promised, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” In reality, he’s been on the links far more often than Obama ever was, 266 times as opposed to just 98 to this point in their tenures, according to CNN.

But criticism of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis goes deeper than just one golf outing.

“It is important to tell the truth,” said Brodner. “Trump has shown incompetence, carelessness, ruthlessness in lying, and a complete lack of empathy at a time of severe crisis for the country. Many are dead because of inaction in the face of the emergency.”

See more artworks based on the Times cover below.

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