On Easter, March 27 2016, there was very briefly an unusual art installation in Central Park, New York. It was a small marble gravestone, with a birth date but no date of death. The epitaph read “Make America Hate Again.” And the name? Donald Trump.
The installation was a short one for obvious reasons – in only hours, the police had dug up the headstone and confiscated it. There was a brief media buzz about the issue, and but no one knew who the artist was, and so it mostly blew over.
The authorities, however, weren’t so quick to drop the matter. On Monday, May 9, two police officers and a Secret Service agent appeared at the door of artist Brian Andrew Whiteley, of Brooklyn.
Whiteley, who was questioned but not arrested (“super-intimidating,” he called the process), has used Trump as his soapbox before, performing as the businessman in a February routine alongside another artist dressed as Sarah Palin. He wants the presidential candidate to know about his works, to receive their message.
“I thought the only thing that could affect someone who builds buildings and talks real loud and is the bully on the playground is to remind him of his own mortality,” he said. The gravestone was not a threat, of course, only a memento mori with an intended audience of one.
Is it art? That depends on your definition of art. But it’s certainly an object made to deliver a meaning.
Mr. Whiteley, with the help of a civil rights lawyer, is trying to get his gravestone back from the police, and hopes to exhibit it again, this time either in Washington D.C. or in his usual gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The memorial company who made it for him has declined to make another.