And so it begins. Donald J. Trump has been president-elect of the United States of America for three weeks—a sentence that still feels bizarre and appalling to type—and protests in the New York art community are starting to take shape. Last night, around 200 artists, curators, writers, and art workers gathered outside the Puck Building in SoHo, holding a demonstration aimed at Ivanka Trump, the future president’s art-collecting daughter, who has an apartment in the building with her husband Jared Kushner.
The protest, titled Dear Ivanka, was organized by protesters operating under the name Halt Action Group (the acronym thus being HAG, which is a nice touch). In a letter addressed to Ivanka handed out at the event, Halt described itself as “a group of concerned citizens who live in all five boroughs of New York City” and said that it was approaching her because she is a member of the transition team and because of “your commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans, especially women and children.”
Holding signs and electric candles, protestors (which, full disclosure, included this writer), walked up and down Lafayette Street and at least a few passersby joined in. “Someone handed me this candle, and now I am just going to be here for a bit, but I’ll meet you soon,” one woman said, talking on her cell phone. A few police cars pulled up and officers taped off the march from the street. Departing officers workers emerged with quizzical looks and snapped photos. An Alex Israel painting could be seen hanging in the lobby.
The march lined most of the front of the Puck Building, not a bad turnout for a night when a significant portion of the New York art industry was already in Miami for Art Basel. Those in line included artists Marilyn Minter, Deborah Kass, Ryan Foerster, Brian Belott, Ryan McNamara, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Nate Lowman, Becky Howland (holding a wonderful hand-painted sign with a green-faced Steve Bannon using Donald as a puppet), Cecily Brown, Rob Pruitt, Jonathan Horowitz, Borna Sammak, Sam McKinniss, and Peter McGough, as well as writers and curators like Wendy Vogel, Brian Droitcour, Zoë Lescaze, David Velasco, Sarah Nicole Prickett, Alison Gingeras, Carolyn Ramo, and Fabiola Alondra. And there were dealers and advisers on hand, like Jay Gorney, Bill Powers, and Erin Goldberger.
Many of the signs were addressed directly to Ivanka—DEAR IVANKA: DON’T DEPORT OUR FRIENDS, DEAR IVANKA: BAN BANNON!! SHUT DOWN SESSIONS, DEAR IVANKA: TELL YOUR DAD WE PAY TAXES AND HE SHOULD TOO, DEAR IVANKA YOUR DADDY IS SCARY AS HELL.
There was a one-person counter-protest by a man holding signs that read, USA FOR TRUMP, BUILD THE WALL, and YOU LOST. He was largely ignored. “How did they even find us?” one woman wondered about the opposition. (The event had been spread largely through word of mouth and posts on social media.)
This was not a loud, chanting crowd. Besides a few people shouting “Dear Ivanka, hear our plea,” and “Tell Daddy No!” (the latter being particularly popular with a couple of young children perched on steps of the building), the mood was subdued and serious. It felt like a somber memorial for what has already been lost in this country, and a moment of reflection before the many battles to come.
Photos of the protest follow below.