This Pro-Trump Art Show Got Unbelievably Freakish
"I was under the impression that it was a satire, a farce performance piece."
Wallplay gallery has issued an official apology after hosting the controversial pro-Trump art show “#DaddyWillSaveUs” on October 8. “I apologize to anyone who was personally offended or hurt by the content of the art exhibition rental,” wrote gallery founder Laura O’Reilly. “I had no intention of facilitating a platform for hate.”
The exhibition, organized by gay conservative artist Lucian Wintrich, was originally scheduled to take place at Boiler | Pierogi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Gallery co-owner Joe Amrhein cancelled the event, saying Wintrich had lied to him about the nature of the show, which he presented as a satirical project. O’Reilly also claims that Wintrich told her the show would be a “farce performance piece.”
For his part, Wintrich told the Daily Beast that “this is the first time since the days of Robert Mapplethorpe that a gallery has tried to restrict free artistic expression.”
The show took place at Wallplay’s 18th street space in New York, dubbed Gallery 151. Though widely reported as a show at a “Chelsea gallery,” Wallplay is a rental space, hosting art shows for brands and individuals.
In her apology, O’Reilly described the evening, which featured Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos sitting in a bathtub full of pig’s blood, as “a very uncomfortable and disturbing experience.” Yiannopoulos paired the grotesque performance, which left the gallery floor and walls spattered in blood, with a series of black-and-white photos, ostensibly featuring men and women who had been killed by undocumented immigrants.
The show’s other artworks included Wintrich’s “Twinks4Trump,” an erotic photo series of shirtless young gay men donning Trump-branded “Make America Great” hats. Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, who left the company in 2006, showed photos of himself dressed as a white slave, a Native American, and a rape victim. Elementary school textbooks were burned in a “socialist bonfire.”
The infamous pharmaceutical magnate Martin Shkreli, who raised the price of an HIV drug 5,000 percent in 2015, also participated in the evening, with his work consisting of a red and blue pill in a shadow box. Priced at $20,000, the work was accompanied by a plaque, according to the Daily Dot, noting that the “proceeds will benefit pharmaceutical research for novel drugs for lesser known diseases,” i.e. support Shkreli’s company.
“The dissident element in culture—punk, mischief, irreverence—is now better represented in politics by a ‘Make America Great’ hat than by anything on the Left,” said Shkreli in a speech at the opening. “This is the new punk. Republican is the new cool.” (Shkreli infamously purchased the Wu-Tang Clan’s “unique” album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, for $2 million.)
Hyperallergic likened the show to the Third Reich’s “House of German Art” or “Haus Der Deutschen Kunst,” which opened in 1937 with a selection of pro-Aryan art. “The show featured turgid, realist portraits of Hitler; wobbly brown landscapes of fields and churches; Norman Rockwell-esque Aryan domestic scenes; and monumental homoerotic Soviet statuary—all considered by the Nazi Party to be appropriate works of art for the German Volk,” wrote John Sherman.
The #DaddyWillSaveUs exhibition stood in contrast to the gallery’s regularly-scheduled programming, a politically charged showing from Natalie White, titled “Natalie White: Exposed.” The artist, who uses her work as a platform to advocate for equal rights for women, specifically through the passage of the long-delayed Equal Rights Amendment, was arrested in August for spray painting “ERA NOW” on the pavement in front of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.
During this weekend’s opening, O’Reilly posted flyers throughout the space noting that “Wallplay the company that runs this space supports freedom of expression. We do not support Trump, but do believe everyone has the right to express themselves artistically. (This is America.)” The statement added that “we do not support hysteria, hate, or censorship,” and promised to donate the rental fee to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The gallery reportedly received hate mail after images of these flyers were posted on Breitbart.
Ultimately Wintrich may have been able to host his event, but it wasn’t exactly the “really YUGE party” he had promised in his IndieGoGo campaign. The night ended early, Gothamist reported, because there was blood everywhere and the bar had run dry.
Read the full statement from Wallplay, below:
I apologize to anyone who was personally offended or hurt by the content of the art exhibition rental that happened at Wallplay’s venue on Saturday, October 8th, 2016. I had no intention of facilitating a platform for hate, I did not fully understand the true nature of the art show until the opening began. I was under the impression that it was a satire, a farce performance piece. Instead of giving the curator a refund & shutting them down on the spot, I chose not to fuel their narrative that liberals are fascist and the art world was censoring them.
I chose to practice my own form of patriotism by making space for the voices of people I do not agree with—protecting what makes America already great. As a curator who has worked on very controversial exhibitions focused on reforming the prison industrial complex, drug laws, women’s equality, and police brutality—I have utilized gallery spaces as a platform for social activism for over a decade. I would have felt like a hypocrite shutting them down and creating a double standard to my own belief that through art we can open direct dialogue on hard-to-approach issues. I will not selectively support liberty & freedom of expression. While it was a very uncomfortable and disturbing experience, it was an important moment in time to have a pro-Trump art show on one side of our wall and feminist Natalie White’s exhibition on the other.
Wallplay is the management company that runs 132 West 18th Street; we receive a commission on all rentals & art sales. The owner of the lease has decided to donate 100% of the proceeds to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. I will be donating Wallplay’s commission from the rental fee to a charity that supports the empowerment of young women in New York City.
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