5 Art News Stories That Actually Had an Effect on Election 2016

From #SpiritCooking to #SavePepe.

Havi Shanz, Donald Trump. Courtesy of Havi Shanz/@HaviArt.
Havi Shanz, Donald Trump. Courtesy of Havi Shanz/@HaviArt.

We’ve already covered the art of Election 2016. But even beyond the many street art campaigns and art fundraisers, art has played an unusually prominent role. Below, five art stories that have shaped the election:

Trump’s Tax-Dodging Art Taste
He’s not exactly known for his good taste. But among the long trail of scandalous stories plaguing the Trump campaign was the report that his foundation had blown charity money on a variety of extravagant Trump art purchases. These included a cool $20,000 for a work by “speed painter” Michael Israel, which purportedly ended up at one of his golf courses, and $10,000 for a large, shockingly orange-hued portrait of The Donald by Argentinian artist Havi Schanz, whose current whereabouts remain unknown. A Univision reporter tracked the painting to the Champions Bar and Grill at Trump’s Doral golf club.

An anti-immigrant meme Tweeted by Donald Trump Jr.

An anti-immigrant meme Tweeted by Donald Trump Jr.

Skittles Photog Fights Back
In September, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out this nasty meme, playing on anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim prejudice. Except, it turns out the man who made the Skittles photo was himself an immigrant, and he clapped back. “In 1974, when I was six-years old, I was a refugee from the Turkish occupation of Cyprus so I would never approve the use of this image against refugees,” David Kittos told the BBC. “This was not done with my permission, I don’t support Trump’s politics and I would never take his money to use it.”

A Trump + Pepe Meme

A Trump + Pepe Meme

The Battle for Pepe’s Soul
Among the key newly minted images of Election 2016: Pepe the Frog, the chilled out cartoon frog who unexpectedly took a dark turn, becoming a symbol of the alt-right. The Clinton campaign released a much-mocked explainer on the meme’s significance, and the Anti-Defamation League added it to its database of hate symbols. All this caused some anguish for Pepe’s creator, artist Matt Furie (a Clinton voter, incidentally), who partnered with the ADL on a campaign to #SavePepe by creating Pepe-themed memes that were more benign. It seems unlikely to work: on the final day of the election, the alt-right orchestrated a “rain of frogs” campaign, unleashing a tidal wave of pro-Trump Pepe.

Collector Moishe Mana. Photo: NICHOLAS ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images.

Collector Moishe Mana. Photo: NICHOLAS ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images.

Mana’s Mensch Move
“Man with a van” mogul and Mana Contemporary art center founder Moishe Mana has taken quite an active role in the election, including offering $2 million for charity if Trump released his taxes, and staging an art auction for Clinton. Recently, he also vowed to pay for whatever legal defense was needed for a woman who had come forward to accuse the Republican of sexual assault, in the face of his threats to sue them, post-election. “We’re going to hire lawyers to defend the whole case should he try to attack them,” he said. “It cannot be that one guy can bully the entire country and do whatever and say whatever and we are subject to his rhetoric.”

Satanic Panic Over Marina Abramovic
On Friday, in what amounts to perhaps the most outlandish election/art news story of all time, it was reported that right-wing news outlets trolling through the Clinton team’s hacked email trove discovered an invite to a “Spirit Cooking” session with Marina Abramovic. A few cursory Google searches later, the same fringe commentators (for instance, the one heard in the video above) had concluded that the performance art star was in league with the Devil, and that the event was further evidence that Clinton was in thrall with the forces of evil. Such was the allure of the tall tale that #SpiritCooking began to trend on Twitter.

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