Open Casket

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Artist: Dana Schutz

Year: 2017

Date of Action: March 2017

Region: North America

Location: The Whitney Museum, New York City

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Painting

Confronting Bodies: General Public

Description of Artwork: "Open Casket," a piece within the Biennial exhibition by Dana Schutz was created in response to many incidents of racially charged police brutality. The painting was inspired by a 62-year old photograph of Emmett Till's tortured body lying disfigured in his casket "for all the world to see." In the painting, Till's face is represented through abstraction.

The Incident: The abstracted nature of Till's face sparked anger as well as caused requests for its removal. Many consider Emmett Till to be sacred historical heritage of Black people and considered Schutz's representation to be cultural appropriation.

Results of Incident: The Whitney museum has responded to the controversy by respecting the ongoing protests, but have continued to support the artist and her work. The museum refused to take down the painting, and instead, created a larger discourse around the issue.


NCAC’s Primer On The Whitney Biennial Controversy: A Timely and Necessary Exchange

Whitney Museum