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How Ivanka Trump’s art collection turned on her

12 March 2017

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

You (sort of) have to feel sorry for President Trump. The art world has been heaping opprobrium on the Donald ever since he became the Republican frontrunner for last year’s elections. Artists such as Richard Prince have wasted no small amount of energy in attacking Trump, and nary a day has passed without the appearance of a new image satirising his worldview and appearance.

As revealed by Nate Freeman’s story for Art News, the art world’s attacks don’t stop with the president himself. An Instagram account called @dear_ivanka has been relentlessly taking aim at his art-collecting daughter, too. The account, which was started by an action collective co-founded by curator Alison Gingeras, began as a series of posts juxtaposing Ms Trump’s glamous lifestyle with pleas from groups likely to lose out from her father’s presidency.

Dear @ivankatrump, Today Ohio passed a bill that would criminalize all abortions occurring after a fetus' heartbeat is detectible by ultrasound, which would put the cap at around 6 weeks. At 6 weeks, many women are not even aware that they are pregnant, which would work to almost eliminate the possibility of a safe means of terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Kasich has 10 days to decide whether or not to strike this bill down as oppositional to our constitutional rights as women. I know that I don't need to remind you of Anna Yocca's case, a 32 year old woman currently incarcerated in Tennessee with three separate felony charges for her attempt at a coat hanger abortion. Do we think that this draconian policy is going to create happy homes? Does forcing women to chose whether they will endanger their lives or reconcile themselves to having an unwanted child seem like a good plan? Women's bodies are not the property of the state- please stand with us and protect us from all the men who want to control our reproductive rights. #ivankatrump #ivanka #dearivanka

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Dear Ivanka, Fans of the Trump brand are threatening the lives and safety of artists who've expressed concern regarding the inclusion of their work in your collection. It must be difficult to collect the living. We're so unwieldy, aren't we? But that's the game, right? The collecting game? Buying 'cool' from people deemed 'cool' by culture and exploiting all that cool stuff as set dressing in your instamercial for cheap things and fraudulent poses. Objects become cool because the people who make them are iconoclasts. They live loudly. They work hard. They resist and embrace all the right things while infecting imaginations with pleasure and joy. They will neither acknowledge nor be silenced by the mud your supporters so fluently traffic in. Cool, Dear Ivanka, is not passive. Cool is active, and when you exploit, for social capital, a cool that is not yours, you will surely hear from those to whom it belongs. When you stand beside a canvas, snap an image, filter it and sprinkle your post with a dusting of hashtags, you are standing beside, snapping, filtering, and dusting an intimate extension of a living, working person; one who's right there beside you, and is so, so cool. But what's even cooler is having the agency to call the power of capital into question, to ask where all that money came from, who it serves, who it oppresses. What's cooler is resisting a destructive ideology bent on isolating America, placing power in the hands of a corporate elite, and denying transparency to, or interrogation by the public. Cool is telling you that what your family represents is quite literally fascism. And cool, Dear Ivanka, is never quiet.

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The account led artist Alex Da Corte, whose art has been purchased by Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, to distance himself from any association with her. Spotting his own work in one of @dear_ivanka’s posts, he wrote: ‘Dear @ivankatrump, please get my art off your walls. I am embarrassed to be seen with you.’

And in one post, Ivanka has been reimagined as a Demoiselle d’Avignon, ‘greeting us as you usher us into the contemporary world enshrined at the pinnacle of Trump Tower.’

Dear @ivankatrump, We know how much you like art history. So we made this collage for you. Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is thought of as the painting that marks a decisive shift in art. It is also the work that strips painting itself from the burden of realistic representation. Every recognizable form is subject to an energy that is as palpable as it is terrifying—as if Picasso forced painting to stare into the abyss of its own future. We might call this – the birth of the Contemporary. Why did Picasso base the subject of this painting on a group of whores? Of women parading their contorted bodies for a viewer? Picasso intimately linked sex to the spectating of art. Exhibitionism and exhibiting entwined in this single “masterpiece.” Women in art history, especially when it comes to the depiction of the Madonna, were almost always depicted with a touch of modesty, eyes half closed or gazing downwards, there was the air of an intelligence, an interior space. Even Mary Magdalene—the Madonna’s sinful twin, the whore who wiped Jesus brow—is traditionally depicted as a contemplative, penitent subject. The world was a world and not simply an enclosed brothel. This brute reality is now a nakedness that looks at you, both an accusation and a desperation; where the requirements of the brothel stand: submit, give us your body and your silence. The art critic Leo Steinberg recalls Picasso having a discussion with Gertrude Stein about skyscrapers. Apparently he didn't know about elevators. “Good god,” he said, “imagine the pangs of jealousy as your lover has to climb all those stairs to get to your top floor apartment.” Even the skyscraper, Steinberg imagines, is forced to be a sexual witness. So the contemporary is a story of sexual real estate and the most vulgar power to strip all forms, especially forms of belief. This painting, as you well know, is in our hometown of New York. Enshrined at the MoMA. And you Ivanka have become our Demoiselle d'Avignon – greeting us as you usher us into the contemporary world enshrined at the pinnacle of Trump Tower. Love, @alisongingeras @baby_seal777 @permanentoedipalregression #ivanka #ivankatrump #dearivanka #fml

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Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.