‘Call Me’: Jenny Holzer’s Latest Paintings at Art Basel Miami Beach Highlight Revelations From Trump’s Impeachment Hearings

The artist's impeachment-themed work debuts today at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Detail of Jenny Holzer, Call Me (2019). Image: Julia Halperin.

Embattled Trump administration officials Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker were in attendance at the VIP opening of Art Basel Miami Beach today—sort of.

The American diplomats, who have played key roles in the ongoing impeachment hearings of US President Donald Trump, make an appearance in a brand new painting by Jenny Holzer referencing the investigations of the House Intelligence Committee. That document, marking the next stage of the impeachment process, was only sent out today to the Judiciary Committee.

Asked why she chose to highlight these particular texts, Holzer replied via email, “I want to paint the present.”

The canvas, completed in recent months as the impeachment saga unfolded, is displayed prominently on the stand of mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth, priced at $400,000. It is the first of a series of paintings based on email exchanges unearthed in the investigations of Trump’s dealings in Ukraine, according to the gallery. The work, titled Call Me, has not yet been sold, but the gallery says it is weighing interest and is likely to secure a buyer by the end of the day.

The painting contains two email exchanges that have been some of the biggest flashpoints of the impeachment debate. The first is a message from Volker, the former US special envoy for Ukraine, who was the first witness to testify in the House’s inquiry.

“Heard from White House—assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington,” Volker wrote to an aide of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, the same day that the two presidents spoke by phone in a conversation that is now at the center of the inquiry.

The second exchange in the painting is between diplomat William Taylor and Sondland, in which Taylor tries to confirm that military aid to Ukraine and the Ukrainian president’s White House visit are both contingent on Ukraine agreeing to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” he writes.

Sondland’s reply doubles as the painting’s title: “Call me.”

Installation view of Jenny Holzer, <em>Call Me</em> (2019). Photo: Julia Halperin.

Installation view of Jenny Holzer, Call Me (2019). Photo: Julia Halperin.

The text in the painting is obscured by a swirling pattern rendered in a mix of 24-karat gold, rose gold, and gold leaf, requiring visitors to stop and look closely to make out the exchanges. The work is part of Holzer’s ongoing “Redaction Paintings” series, which delves into declassified and often heavily censored documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

During the VIP preview in Miami, fairgoers routinely walked by the painting, thinking at first it was a run-of-the-mill abstraction, before catching the glinting famous names out of the corner of their eye and slowing down to take a closer look.

“Good,” said gallery director Madeline Warren when told of this response. “That means we lit it correctly.”


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