To depict hate is not to endorse it, and viewers are not fools


To depict hate is not to endorse it, and viewers are not fools

The ‘postponement’ of a major Philip Guston show is astonishing. Galleries shouldn’t be afraid of ‘evil’ symbols

Chris Harvey

Something is wrong with the world. In the week before the US president refused to condemn white supremacy in front of millions, the late, anti-racist artist Philip Guston was, if not “cancelled”, then “postponed” by four of the world’s major art museums.

A joint statement from the galleries, which include Tate Modern, London, said a planned Guston exhibition would not now be shown until 2024, “a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the centre of Philip Guston’s work can be more clearly interpreted”. Not the way we’re going, it won’t.

It’s not hard to see where the issue is: some of Guston’s fantastic late cartoon paintings feature Ku Klux Klan people, in white hoods, driving along, smoking cigars, even putting paintbrush to canvas. Those were self-portraits, said the white, Jewish Guston. “I almost tried to imagine that I was living with the Klan. What would it be like to be evil?”..

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