23 Leading Figures in the Art World Share What They’re Grateful for This Thanksgiving, From the US Constitution to Public Art

Here's what Darren Bader, Cecilia Alemani, Coco Fusco, and others are thankful for this year.

For Freedom's interpretation of Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Want, featuring For Freedoms Co-Founder and artist Hank Willis Thomas (seated, bottom right). Photo courtesy of For Freedoms.
For Freedom's interpretation of Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Want, featuring For Freedoms co-founder and artist Hank Willis Thomas (seated, bottom right). Photo courtesy of For Freedoms.

In this year like no other year, it’s often been hard to look on the bright side. But as 2020 winds to a close, many of us are feeling hopeful about the year ahead—with a vaccine and a new president on the horizon, and perhaps the chance to see art regularly in person again.

While there is much to mourn, there is also much to be grateful for in the year that’s almost past. So we asked 23 artists, curators, dealers, and other leading figures in the art world to reflect on what they’re feeling grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Coco Fusco. Photo: Geandy Pavón.

Coco Fusco. Photo: Geandy Pavón.

I feel thankful to the African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans in the United States that secured a victory for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the presidential election. I am particularly grateful for the efforts of activists such as Stacey Abrams in Georgia and organizations such as Voto Latino and Mi Familia Vota in the southwest. Without them, Trump would not have been beaten. 

—Coco Fusco, artist and writer

 

Darren Bader.

Darren Bader.

However perturbing and discomfiting the means to arriving at this assertion are and were, I think I’m most grateful for the fallibility of human knowledge, and sympathy as a necessary corollary. What a perplexing species we are—what pathetic limits to understanding there are. So perhaps I’m most thankful for the partial primacy of paradox. We suffer at its hands, and yet it generates things like laughter and art.

—Darren Bader, artist

 

Cecilia Alemani at the 2019 High Line Art dinner. Photo by Benjamin Lozovsky, courtesy of BFA.

Cecilia Alemani at the 2019 High Line Art dinner. Photo by Benjamin Lozovsky, courtesy of BFA.

I am thankful that our parks and streets are filled with public art that is accessible to everyone, free of charge, and safely installed outdoors. I am grateful to the many cultural institutions out there that are working hard to bring exciting art to our city!

—Cecilia Alemani, chief curator of New York’s High Line Art and artistic director of the Venice Biennale 2021

Matthew Higgs. Photo by Aubrey Mayer.

Matthew Higgs. Photo by Aubrey Mayer.

I’m thankful for William DeVaughn’s 1974 song “Be Thankful For What You Got.” An evergreen, timeless classic, its central theme remains eternally relevant. It has also resulted in some truly extraordinary cover versions including Bunny Clarke’s (1975), One Blood’s (1980), Craig Peyton‘s (1983)—my personal favorite—and, of course, Massive Attack’s (1991).
—Matthew Higgs, director, White Columns, New York
SUE COE: Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne

Sue Coe. Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne

I am thankful for all those who stood in line to vote for the non-fascist—for hours and hours. I’m thankful for my dear friends who fight to save animal and human lives, and the friends who despair, but carry on anyway (actually, that’s all my friends). I’m thankful for Soutine and Goya and Käthe Kollwitz. I’m thankful there is still journalism. I’m thankful for all the vegans who refuse to eat murdered birds on Thanksgiving.

—Sue Coe, artist and activist

Sarah Workneh. Photograph by Elle Pérez.

I am very grateful for my family and for my community—those around me that continually and fiercely fight to create a new version of our future despite present conditions—through artwork, through organizing, through confronting hard truths; for those who practice rigorous deconstruction through caring and careful reconstruction. I am grateful for the real ethos and propositional dreaminess of Skowhegan; the labor, transformative vision, neighbor-ness of Project EATS; and I am also grateful for daily optimism, Facetimes, eating pizza on the street, walks, bike rides, slowness and outdoors, shady humor via text message, and the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City (not ashamed to admit it).

—Sarah Workneh, co-director, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture

The gallerist in a mask. Photo courtesy of Magda Sawon.

I am thankful for New York, the city that I chose from the map of the US thirtysomething years ago. The city that I will always love and never leave. Through thick and thin, we survive each other and, believe me, we had it thin… At this very moment, I am thankful that in New York I can work IRL as the galleries are open and kicking. 

Wear a freaking mask!

—Magda Sawon, founder, Postmasters Gallery

 

Jane Kallir, director of Galerie St. Etienne. Photo courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne.

Jane Kallir, director of Galerie St. Etienne. Photo courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne.

I am personally very thankful that everyone I love made it safely through this difficult year. But I grieve the many who did not. In recent months, we have come closer to totalitarianism than I ever thought possible in the country that saved my family from the Holocaust. I am grateful for the US Constitution, for the rule of law, and for the millions of Americans who gave Joe Biden a majority of both the electoral and the popular vote. Those Americans give us hope that democracy will prevail

—Jane Kallir, director, Galerie St. Etienne

 

US-based artist Nicholas Galanin in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage.

I am thankful for health and the health of my family and friends, the abundance of creative work happening in circle, thankful for the support of this continued fearless creativity and these future projects I will get to share soon. Thankful for the travel pause—I’ve been on the road for 20 years; this is the longest I have been home. Thank you to all the Indigenous truth tellers out here trying to make this world a better place for all of us. Thankful for love. Fuck Thanksgiving. #landback

—Nicholas Galanin, artist

 

Mary Sabbatino © Grace Roselli.

We are all grateful for the health we have and those of our families and close friends and mindful that this good fortune is not universally shared; so I’m grateful to all of those who work in the healthcare, science, and the helping professions for getting us all through this pandemic. Politically, I’m grateful for a new beginning and seeing a woman of color in the second most powerful position in government and, at a more grassroots level, for the continued energy and focus that youth have put into maintaining the pressure to see and act for justice and equality. Art continues to give gifts; I’m grateful for the loyalty and support of the artists in the gallery and the gift our audience and patrons gave us back, of acceptance, respect, and excitement encountering the work of Ficre Ghebreyesus.

—Mary Sabbatino, vice president, Galerie Lelong

 

Casey Fremont with her kids and father. Photo courtesy Casey Fremont.

Casey Fremont with her kids and father. Photo courtesy Casey Fremont.

This season I’m so very thankful for our democracy. And shoutout to all of the people who are diligently wearing masks to keep us safe and stop the spread. Thank you!

—Casey Fremont, executive director, Art Production Fund

Stefan Simchowitz. Photo courtesy Stefan Simchowitz.

Stefan Simchowitz. Photo courtesy Stefan Simchowitz.

I am going to quote Lord Tennyson:

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” 

—Stefan Simchowitz, art collector

 

Michael Findlay. Photo: Victoria Findlay Wolfe.

I am thankful that the New York Foundation for the Arts gave 880 artists and art workers across the country $3.75 million in emergency assistance and is scheduled to give an additional $600,000 in the coming months. I am thankful that in its 50th anniversary year, the Art Dealers Association of America Foundation gave a record number of grants to small regional museums for projects supporting diversity and inclusivity in exhibition programs and education. I am thankful that America for the Arts CEO Bob Lynch was named to the Biden-Harris transition team, signaling the incoming administration’s recognition of the importance of art in the nation’s well-being and recovery. Our family won’t be coming together for Thanksgiving but I am grateful my daughter, son, and grandson are all well, as am I—because my wife insists I stick to the rules for my age.

—Michael Findlay, director, Acquavella Galleries

 

Samara Golden. Courtesy of the Fabric Workshop and Museum.

I’m thankful that I can walk, that I can use my hands, and that I can speak. I don’t take these things for granted. I’m thankful to be able to see, hear, and feel so many things deeply, even when it’s not easy.

—Samara Golden, artist

 

Dave Harper. Courtesy of the New York City AIDS Memorial.

No one needs a reminder of this year’s turbulence, its unthinkable challenges, or the unimaginable fear, sadness, and loss we’ve all in some way experienced. Yet I have been moved by the resilience of our communities who have refused to be silent: from those cheering each evening out of their apartment windows for healthcare workers in the springtime, to those in our summer streets demanding equity, justice, and an end to systemic violence, to those who helped get out the vote across the nation this fall. For this, I am endlessly thankful. The New York City AIDS Memorial may be a sober reminder of the toll taken when those in power ignore an epidemic that stares them right in the face, but it also is a tribute to the power of activism, of hope, and of collective voices demanding to be heard and not forgotten.

—Dave Harper, executive director, New York City AIDS Memorial

 

Claudia Altman-Siegel. Photo by The Morrisons.

I am actually grateful for a lot right now. First of all for my health and the health of my family, which has been fine this whole time. We are fortunate enough to have been able to isolate as needed.  

I feel grateful to be in San Francisco where I have found that my community has been very supportive of the gallery during this time. We have been able to focus on the local in new innovative ways. One example is the founding of 8-Bridges, a new online platform that serves Bay Area galleries and sponsors events. It was founded by myself and a group of like-minded dealers in the city. I think the stresses of the pandemic have encouraged us to become creative and to collaborate more. Through this platform we are sponsoring San Francisco Arts Week next year, the week of January 25th, in place of the traditional fairs that would have happened at this time. Of course it will be more decentralized, but we hope to keep the momentum of previous years alive and create a reason for the community to come together.

—Claudia Altman-Siegel, founder, Altman Siegel Gallery 

 

Natalie Frank’s ceramics.

I’m thankful for a future with fewer sociopaths, bad hair dye, and divisiveness. I’m also thankful to have discovered ceramics, which have safeguarded my fantasy and feelings of joy during this very unfanciful time. 

—Natalie Frank, artist

 

Art advisor Heather Flow.

I am grateful for all exquisitely common delicacies of life.

—Heather Flow, art advisor

 

Angel Otero.

I’m thankful for my family and I’m thankful for the feeling of hope.

—Angel Otero, artist

 

From left: Hitomi Nakamura, Scooter LaForge, & James Rubio. Photo: Bob Krasner. Courtesy of Howl Happening.

From left: Hitomi Nakamura, Scooter LaForge, and James Rubio. Photo: Bob Krasner. Courtesy of Howl Happening.

I’m grateful to have a voice I can freely express through my art. The Bowery became my platform during the pandemic as I worked on murals intuitively going after a feeling. At the end of the day, I’m just thankful to be alive. I wanted to share that the purpose of life is simply to live.

—Scooter LaForge, artist

Christina Vassallo. Photo by Joseph Minek (2019).

I’m thankful for the resourcefulness, resilience, and depth of Philadelphia’s cultural sector. I moved here less than three months before the first shutdown and the challenges of 2020 have brought together local arts leaders and cultural producers around a common goal: to remain healthy, solvent, and active participants in this city’s recovery efforts.

—Christina Vassallo, executive director, Fabric Workshop and Museum

 

Christina Quarles. Photo © Daniel Dorsa.

Christina Quarles. Photo: Daniel Dorsa, courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Pilar Corrias, London.

I am thankful for the health, safety, and happiness of my friends, family, and loved ones. I am thankful for the women, queers, BIPOCs, and parents who knew the importance of voting Trump out of office and the power of collective action. I am thankful for being sheltered in place with my incredible wife, our crazy pets, and my friends’ inspiring art. I am thankful that my days are spent making art and talking about ideas with people around the world. I am thankful that 2020 reminded us what a gift it is to experience art in real life.

—Christina Quarles, artist

 

Damian Loeb at Acquavella Galleries in New York City. Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

It has been a hard year, and one has to find as many things to appreciate as possible. I am grateful for so many things: for delivery people, remote teachers, construction workers, our superintendent, election officials and volunteers, doctors and nurses, police and firemen. My understanding friends, distant relatives, and close family. My sense of smell, moments of privacy, and going bump in the night. But I am grateful mostly for a number—the number of days until a vaccine is available for all, the number of days left in this evil and incompetent administration, and to the days until I can laugh with, eat with, and hug all my missing friends.

—Damian Loeb, artist


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