The Politics of Art

1 minute read

Art has played a huge role in shaping modern society, from the Renaissance to the zeitgeisty “cow parade” installations that popped up in cities like Zurich and Chicago in the late ’90s. But in Culture as Weapon, Nato Thompson argues that art–or more specifically, the criticism of art–can also be an invaluable way to score political points. Consider how in 1989 the late Senator Jesse Helms galvanized his base by taking a stand against the Andres Serrano photograph Immersion (Piss Christ), which depicted a crucified Jesus submerged in urine; meanwhile, liberals played to their base by defending the importance of free speech in art. Or more recently, how Nigel Farage made headlines for suggesting that Donald Trump improve British-American relations by replacing a bust of Winston Churchill rumored to have been removed from the White House by President Obama. (The rumor has been discredited.) It’s an ingenious way, Thompson writes, for politicians to “stand back and decry” something, while “making it the center of attention.”


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