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Lisa Miller


Project 1: Talking Points (Group Project)

How Open Casket Revealed a Greater Representational Issue in the Art World

This research paper uses the subject matter of Emmett Till in art and the resulting response from the public as a lens into a greater issue, demonstrating the lack of proper representation of black people in the art world, as artists, curators, and advisors. Dana Schutz’s Open Casket painting (2016) and its role as part of the Whitney Biennial collection is analysed. The paper explores the issues that arose around the painting and considers how it was racially insensitive as well as investigating the responsibility of the museum in displaying the piece as part of their collection.

The powerful protests of black artists in response to the painting are examined in order to depict the frustration felt by black community members in not having authentic and sufficient representation in the art world. Comparative analysis of Lisa Whittington’s How She Sent Him and How She Got Him Back (2012) is employed to illustrate the different interpretations of black subject matter in art between a white artist and a black artist, supported by references from an interview with Whittington on the topic.

Alternative opinions and responses to the painting are acknowledged and considered, including reports from journalists and art advocates who support Schutz’s painting and do not consider it inappropriate. In doing this, what is emphasised is that regardless of one’s standpoint on the painting itself, there is a clear need for more black representation in art, museums, and galleries.

Keywords: Black Representation, Art, Open Casket, Whitney Biennial

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