How Artists Reacted to the First Presidential Debate, As It Happened

Moods varied widely over an evening of political mega-theater.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands after the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands after the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was billed as a TV mega-event, with chatter about an estimated 100 million potential viewers. Artists, being people, tuned in and kept running commentary via Twitter.

Below, a sense of how the night unspooled on art Twitter.

As the candidates took the stage for the debate, MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach kicked off the night with the Hillary Clinton “pantsuit rainbow” meme:

think rainbow tonight

A video posted by Klaus Biesenbach (@klausbiesenbach) on

LA-based artist Nao Bustamante was impressed by Hillary:

Art critic Jerry Saltz (who formerly shared the airwaves with Bustamante on Work of Art) had a rather less glowing assessment of Trump:

Moderator Lester Holt lobbed the first question: “Are you a better choice to put money into the pockets of American workers?”

In the subsequent scrum about China and trade, painter Deborah Kass thought Clinton took the upper hand:

Andrew Kuo was not so sure:

As the debate rolled on, and Trump continuously talked over Clinton, consensus crystallized that the moderator was letting things get out of hand, which is what I think Anthony Antonellis meant by this:

NYC sculptor Adriana Farmiga was more unsparing:

And Sterling Crispin was already in despair:

Trump pulled out his major line of assault, blasting Clinton as a “typical politician.” Brazil-born photographer Vik Muniz thought his belligerent tone was a losing strategy:

Punk painter Zak Smith, on the other hand, thought Hillary was blowing it:

Clinton zinged Trump for not paying taxes; Trump replied, “that makes me smart.” LA painter Lisa Adams:

Hillary then pressed the line of attack that her opponent had stiffed contractors and workers in his various business endeavors. Trump: “I take advantage of the laws of the nation.” Queens museum director Laura Raicovich:

Moderator Lester Holt weighed in: “We’re behind schedule… Let’s talk about race.”

After calling for “law and order,” Trump defended his record on race by saying he built a club in Palm Beach that allowed Jews and African Americans. Asked to defend his role in pushing the conspiracy about Barack Obama’s birth certificate, he said he didn’t need to apologize because he had performed a public service.

Painter Steve Locke:

Then, the discussion turned to cybersecurity.

Trump: “As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said…” He was not finished with the statement and the mirth about “the cyber” rattled in:

The “cyber” remark was quickly followed by Trump’s aside that cyberattacks could as easily be orchestrated by a “400-pound” homegrown hacker from his bedroom. Post-internet artist Artie Vierkant:

The debate proceeded to foreign policy. Trump’s record on the Iraq War came up for scrutiny, with the billionaire demanding that journalists “go ask Sean Hannity” to confirm that he had been against it.

Black Arts Incubator co-founder Kim Drew:

Trump: “I’m for NATO but they have got to get tough on terror… We have to knock the hell out of ISIS.” Against this background, Jayson Musson had an epiphany:

The mogul then assured America of his major strength: “I have a much better temperament than she does,” a bridge too far for architecture critic Paul Goldberger:

Clinton: “Words matter—they matter when you run for president and they really matter when you are president. We have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.” Painter Mira Schor thought Clinton nailed it:

NYC artist Jeanette Hayes, however, was left missing Bernie:

Trump threw in some nasty remarks about Clinton’s stamina. Clinton clapped back: “When Donald Trump spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”

Brooklyn museum head Anne Pasternak:

After the final, strange question about whether each candidate would support the other as president, we were through to the end.

Holt: “We covered a lot of ground, not everything, as I suspected we wouldn’t.”

Andrew Kuo, an early Clinton doubter in the debate, was relieved:

And, New York artist Joy Garnett:


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