The Problem with Open Letters

Artists are notoriously sensitive. Socially, they are often the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, first to detect and react to injustice. I discussed three examples of 20th century artists responding to the inhumanity of armed conflicts in my recent article in The New Criterion. I did so to provide the art-historical context for the controversy prompted by “An open letter from the art community to cultural organizations” undersigned by some 8,000 people and published in Artforum. I argue that venting by e-signing, then e-withdrawing signatures and e-apologizing is not the way to go.