Blood-red Banners Fall at Guggenheim to Protest Iran Violence
In a wild week for art world protests, an artist wore dozens of hazmat suits to protest China's covid-zero policy, and a Monet painting was splashed with mashed potato to combat climate change.
Anonymous Artist Collective for Iran's art action at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York on 22 October 2022. Courtesy the artists.
Each banner was stencilled with the words 'Women, Life, Liberty' in English and Kurdish along with a portrait of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old who was allegedly beaten to death by Iran's morality police for not wearing a hijab.
'This homage is a call for action to support the current revolution in Iran, led by brave Iranian women risking their lives to stand up against oppression to overthrow a longtime authoritarian regime,' the collective said in a statement.
Widespread protests are ongoing in Iran, with further demonstrations planned today to mark the passage of 40 days since Amini's death on 16 September.
The museum hasn't commented on the protest, which took place during the exhibition Alex Katz: Gathering. One Instagram commenter described its silence on Iran as 'deafening'.
It was, however, well received by others in the art world including Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, who said she was 'proud of a few brave Iranian artists' for 'hanging this beautiful display'.
Also in New York, Zhisheng Wu, a student at the Art Institute of Chicago, squeezed into 27 hazmat suits in a performance that took place in Times Square on 16 October.
The performance was a response to China's seemingly interminable covid-zero policy, which has seen people confined to their homes and separated from their families long after most countries have relaxed their restrictions.
Wu had initially planned to wear 100 suits in the performance but he couldn't squeeze his arms through the sleeves of the 28th suit, despite it being size XXXL.
Speaking about the experience, Wu told Ocula Magazine that 'the first feeling is choking.' He likened the suits' obstruction of his senses to the inability to express his frustration with the prohibitive policy.
International media including SCMP and CNN covered the story, which Wu said was not just a protest but also an attempt at his own catharsis.
'I think the purpose of the work is achieved once my personal emotions are vented out,' he said.
Both Wu's performance and the Guggenheim action seemed more likely to garner sympathy than the climate activists who splashed mashed potato on Claude Monet's Grainstacks (1890) at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, on 23 October.
The potato protest followed a recent tomato soup attack on Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers (1888) at London's National Gallery that likewise sought action on climate change and income inequality. —[O]