It’s no secret that the art world has had an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the results of the 2016 presidential election. Many artists—such as sculptor Jeff Koons—openly supported President-elect Donald Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, even raising millions of dollars for her campaign. But the future of American artists and the art market remains a mystery. The Trump administration may result in tax cuts for the wealthy, which ultimately could mean more people buying at art auctions. “Trump is probably better for the art market if you analyze it,” Co-Head of the Fine Arts Department at Sotheby’s auction house Amy Cappellazzo said.
Although many art collectors did support Trump, those who are mourning his victory could help to bolster the art world as well. It’s safe to say that many people feel defeated after this particularly draining election season.
“When people feel their world coming apart, they seek out beauty in any form to get through it,” Cappellazzo said.
Artist Gee Vaucher’s “Oh, America” is an image of the Statue of Liberty crying into her hands, a piece that was originally created for a 1980s album cover. This work has resurfaced, however, as a way for media publications and individuals to express their feelings about the election results.
Many contemporary artists have started to create protest art centered on Trump. Hanksy, a popular satirical street artist—whose name is a parody of his famously anonymous peer, Banksy—has depicted Trump as a pile of feces and a Mexican presidential candidate. Plastic Jesus, a street artist based in Los Angeles, built a tiny wall around Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Another street artist, Pegasus, from Britain, depicted Trump as the second coming of Adolf Hitler with the words, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” spray-painted over the work. So it seems that the Trump administration is already helping the arts just by existing.
President-elect Trump has been rather vocal about his feelings about art in the past. “Trump is not just uninterested in culture and the arts, but is actively inimical to them,” according to The Irish Times. In an article published earlier this week, the Times explains that in order to build Trump Tower in New York City in 1983, the President-elect tore down a building with a pair of art deco reliefs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art wanted desperately to keep these rare reliefs for their collection, but they were destroyed.
Trump has actually announced his dislike of the diversity that characterizes contemporary art. “As President, I would ensure that the National Endowment of the Arts stops funding of this sort,” Trump said, referring to a particular work by Chris Ofili that did not appeal to the President-elect. According to The Irish Times, other Republicans have also let it be known that they support either cutting funding for the Endowment or privatizing it. With an incoming Republican White House, this may just become a reality.
So the impact of Trump’s presidency on the arts is a sticky web, indeed. On the one hand, you have what Director of the Armory Show Benjamin Genocchio calls positive “macroeconomic realities” and fuel for creative protest. But then again, Trump’s apparent dislike of the arts may just cancel these positives.
It’s too early to tell just yet, but one thing is obvious: Trump is sure to have a powerful effect on the arts.