Hans Haacke has been known to make art about all sorts of contentious political issues and people, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to controversial museum board members to Ronald Reagan, and you didn’t really expect him to skip an opportunity for weighing in on Donald Trump, did you?
At the New Museum in New York, where the first American museum survey for Haacke in three decades is now open, the intrepid artist is showing a new work about the commander in chief’s Twitter usage, and it’s front and center, in the lobby of the museum.
Titled Make Mar-a-Lago Great Again (2019), the installation features a monitor tipped on its side that displays the latest tweet by the President; it’s updated regularly, and refreshed each time he posts something new. When I visited earlier today, the tweet on view was, “….Does anybody think this is fair? Even though there was no quid pro quo, I’m sure they would like to try. Worse than the Dems!”
The piece also includes a banner with online postings for “Make America Great Again” hats and, alongside it, a gold-plated golf club (one imagines the President would approve) and nine Statue of Liberty bobbleheads. Metal barriers surround the installation.
There are subtler (and, it must be said, more interesting) political statements throughout the exhibition, one of which is on the museum’s fifth floor, where Haacke is debuting another new work, this one called New Museum Poll (2019). Haackeheads will recall that the artist has polled museum visitors throughout the years, most famously at the Museum of Modern Art in 1971, where he asked visitors about their feels about Nelson Rockefeller, then the governor of New York and a MoMA trustee, who had chosen not to speak out against President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia.
At the New Museum, Haacke is asking visitors to provide information about their political leanings, their socioeconomic background, and their beliefs about the art world and the wealth that courses through it. The results are shown on a nearby screen, and they are updated live.
One question from Haacke reads, “Do you think the country in which you live has adequate and fully enforced laws that prevent individuals and corporations from evading taxes by establishing an address in a tax haven and/or disguising their identity?” As of mid-afternoon today, 84 percent of voters had responded “No.”