Exhibit

Philip Guston Now

Self-censoring at the National Gallery of Art

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In an act of self-censoring condescension, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and three other leading galleries postponed from June 2021 until 2024 a major retrospective exhibition of the works of American artist Philip Guston.

The show, which was to be called "Philip Guston Now," included several works depicting hooded Ku Klux Klan figures. Curators feared their audiences would not be sophisticated enough to perceive and appreciate the manifestly anti-racist intent of the artist's works.

Supposedly in light of the "racial justice movement that started in the U.S. and radiated to countries around the world," the directors of the four galleries in a September press release declared they were "postponing the exhibition until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston's work can be more clearly interpreted."

Pushback against this decision, which pretended that suppressing imagery that reminds us of sinister truths can somehow eradicate historical evils, was immediate. "The people who run our great institutions…fear controversy," declared an open letter signed by 100 prominent artists of various ethnic and racial backgrounds. "They lack faith in the intelligence of their audience." Guston's daughter Musa Mayer also issued a statement, rightly asserting that "these paintings meet the moment we are in today. The danger is not in looking at Philip Guston's work, but in looking away."

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27 responses to “Philip Guston Now

  1. Hate to say it, but the museum isn’t wrong to fear the public wouldn’t get it. The public is seriously dumb. I mean, look at how works like To Kill a Mockingbird get banned in the mistaken belief they promote the exact opposite of what they actually promote.

    It’s not just illiteracy either, because even someone who couldn’t read a 200-page book could watch the movie. But enough people are sufficiently mentally challenged to get their way, regardless of how inaccurate their conclusions may be. The prevailing spirit is that, if you feel offended, that feeling is justified and you are “in danger,” no matter what the reality is.

    1. Sorry but Holocaust denial is a real threat to Jews. Anyone who denies that 11 million Jews died under the Nazi regime is willing to perform enough mental gymnastics to justify anything, including racial hatred, physical violence, and homicide.

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      2. I thought it was 6 million. Have I been misinformed, or is this a test?

        1. This is Reason comments; reality optional.
          Kindest interpretation, typo; next total deaths instead of Jewish deaths; last disinformation.

        2. It was about 6 million Jews, but 11-12 million total. Nazis went against every minority: Slavs, blacks, gays, Romani, and definitely political dissidents.

          Let’s be light on people for minor misstatements.

    2. “if you feel offended, that feeling is justified and you are “in danger,” no matter what the reality is.”

      Now, where would people get that idea?

  2. This page of some of his paintings seems to mix some good stuff with a lot of stuff you need an Art degree to appreciate.

    https://www.philipguston.org/home/works

    1. Three Klansman in a tractor tells me a lot about the artist’s views on the urban/rural divide.

      Sure Little Rock and Birmingham were cities, but they were countryfolk at heart or something, something…
      Anyway, they weren’t New York so they were essentially farmers.

      1. If you are referring to Image 38 of 78 at the above link, the Klansmen are in a car, not on a tractor.

    2. Some of them you need a kindergarten teacher to appreciate.

  3. Shortly, they’ll have to change their initials as well.

    NGA?

    Probably sounds racist to some of the more easily set off.

  4. George Orwell, please call your office.

  5. Imagine if a bunch of young, miseducated artists were to see these images, start asking questions, and learn just how greatly they differ from today. They might start questioning if ‘racism’ really is a ‘public health crisis’

    You can’t show people the truth of history because they may start to realize that these are the greatest days ever

  6. “Curators feared their audiences would not be sophisticated enough to perceive and appreciate the manifestly anti-racist intent of the artist’s works.”

    But these same un-washed, frightened rubes are sophisticated enough to understand modern social issues, economics, and politics, and vote in sensible ways?

    1. “But these same un-washed, frightened rubes are sophisticated enough to understand modern social issues, economics, and politics, and vote in sensible ways?”

      Clearly not; that is why their democratic party overlords voted for them, with a little help from the computers.

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  8. It would be easy enough for the museum to remove the problematic images, but they know this wouldn’t solve the problem. The perpetually offended would go out of their way to find these images and then complain just the same as if the museum had included the images in their collection. A reasonable person might argue that if you go out of your way to find offensive material you otherwise wouldn’t even know existed, maybe your offendedness is on you, but we all know these are not reasonable – or even sane – people.

  9. what”Curators feared their audiences would not be sophisticated enough…”

    What else is a curator to do?

  10. They’ll have time to change the exhibit’s name to Philip Guston Then or Philip Guston Later or even Philip Guston Never.

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  13. “postponing the exhibition until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston’s work can be more clearly interpreted.”

    Since he started painting these “problematic” images in the late 1960’s (over 50 years ago) and he died in 1980 (40 years ago), a few more years of interpretation is certainly understandable.

  14. Curators feared their audiences would not be sophisticated enough
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