A painting of Emmett Till hanging embedded with the prestigious body of work in Whitney Biennial has stirred conversation on cultural appropriation, artistic ownership and Black bodies as a spectacle, culminating in a critical question: Do white artists have the right to depict Black pain?
The painting by Dana Schutz, entitled, "Open Casket," reimagines the photo of Emmett Till following his horrific murder on August 28, 1955. In a gruesome similarity to the original image, Schutz paints Till's face in the abstract. The smudges of paint remind that his face was indeed left disfigured, unidentifiable.
This week the painting sparked outrage and protest among some Black artists, who called for its removal and destruction and physically blocked the piece in the gallery space.
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