The ongoing gallery of anti-Trump art just got a splashy new addition. CNN reports that artist Robin Bell projected a series of words onto the front of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, on Monday night:
“Pay Trump bribes here.”
And then the text of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which forbids US government officials to accept gifts from foreign powers.
The Trump International Hotel has hosted several foreign dignitaries ever since Trump was elected. “Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’” said one diplomat in November.
Many have argued that this practice is unethical — it’s why presidents traditionally step away from their businesses while in office — and some say it’s downright illegal, because of the emoluments clause. Trump is facing a lawsuit from the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who argue that the emoluments clause prohibits Trump’s businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments.
Bell agrees with the argument. “It's a pretty clear-cut example of impropriety," he told CNN. "This is not like politics as usual. The rules and the lines are being pushed so far and this seemed to be so clear to me."
Monday’s projection piece is just the latest in Bell’s personal gallery of anti-Trump art — he’s done four other projections — as well as the burgeoning anti-Trump artistic movement. In January, during the week of the inauguration, Manhattan’s the Untitled Space gallery hosted a show called “Uprise/Angry Women,” featuring paintings like Fahren Feingold’s “My Pussy to Grab.” Awol Erizku, the artist behind those Beyoncé pregnancy photos, has a new show called “Make America Great Again” that is riddled with black panthers. And anti-Trump street art has reached Bali.
In an era when everyone from late-night talk show hosts to establishment politicians is excitedly declaring themselves “the resistance” to a historically unpopular president, artists are no exception. The question that remains is whether artists have a responsibility to try to catalyze concrete change with their art — or whether the role of the artist is to offer catharsis to everyone else. In other words, it’s time to dig out your Brecht.