Whitney Museum

Why the Myth of the ‘Good Billionaire’ Is Undermining the Nonprofit and For-Profit Art Industry Alike (and Other Insights)

Every Wednesday morning, Midnight Publishing Group News brings you The Gray Market. The column decodes important stories from the previous week—and offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the art industry in the process.

This week, how the top of the ladder has taken the art world sideways…



On Sunday, journalist and author Anand Giridharadas delivered a scalding rebuke of the pinnacle of the U.S. donor class in the New York Times. While mega-philanthropy takes the brunt of the heat, his argument also carries implications for the for-profit side of a polarized art market. The full scope of his analysis clarifies once again how the economics that define the culture business proceed from policy choices made on a much larger canvas. 

At the center of Giridharadas’s sights is Berkshire Hathaway C.E.O. Warren Buffett, the apotheosis of what he calls the “Good Billionaire” myth. In Giridharadas’s telling, the myth holds that America’s largest problem today is only the abuse of its economic system by a few galactically wealthy bad actors, not the design of the system itself. When top earners just behave with a shred of dignity and fellow feeling for the rest of society, everyone prospers together. 

Buffett has long seemed the best evidence for these beliefs. He comes across as humble, uninterested in wealth, and even welcoming of common-sense reforms that would reduce the net worth of his billionaire peers. 

Giridharadas reminds us that then-President Barack Obama named a modest wealth-tax proposal in honor of Buffett, who has frequently railed against the unfairness of a system that allows him to pay a lower proportional tax burden than basically everyone who works for him. He is among the founding billionaires behind the Giving Pledge, the pact in which each signatory commits to donating at least half of their wealth to nonprofit causes before the hearse pulls up. He has lived his entire adult life in Omaha, Nebraska, for crying out loud. How much more down-to-earth could a billionaire get?

Buffett may be the prototype of the virtuous plutocrat, but he’s not alone. Bill Gates has transformed in the public imagination from ruthless software monopolist to benevolent vax daddy of low-income countries. Michael Bloomberg is regularly lionized (even in the past by me) for the millions he gives to cultural and climate nonprofits annually. The latter two characters may come off as less aw-shucks than Buffett, but their examples still seem to suggest mega-wealth delivers society a great good when the right people are involved.

Giridharadas, however, argues that this is all crap—a grand smokescreen perpetuated by the most powerful to keep everyone else ripe for exploitation. He writes:

There is no way to be a billionaire in America without taking advantage of a system predicated on cruelty, a system whose tax code and labor laws and regulatory apparatus prioritize your needs above most people’s. Even noted Good Billionaire Mr. Buffett has profited from Coca-Cola’s sugary drinks, Amazon’s union busting, Chevron’s oil drilling, Clayton Homes’s predatory loans and, as the country learned recently, the failure to tax billionaires on their wealth.

That last sentence refers to both some of Buffett’s investments and, more importantly, a scorching investigation published last week by ProPublica. Using leaked tax records, it didn’t just show that the very wealthiest Americans have been paying meager amounts of federal income tax—and sometimes, none at all—for years, or that the billionaires in question have done so over and over again by completely legal means. It also showed that some of the most cunning plutocrats have been the ones often portrayed as the most virtuous.

(If you’re curious about how they’re pulled it off, the answer is by taking meager annual salaries—Amazon, for instance, paid its C.E.O. Jeff Bezos less than $82,000 annuallywhile taking out a cascading series of low-interest loans against their stocks and other assets, which generate no taxable income until they’re sold. Here’s a good explainer.) 

Buffett’s folk hero persona did not stop him from leveraging this loophole for all it was worth. According to ProPublica, he paid a “true tax rate” of just .1 percent on the $24.3 billion he added to his net worth between 2014 and 2018. Bloomberg managed to pay only slightly more than Buffett during the same span: a 1.3 percent true tax rate on a gain of $22.5 billion. (In statements to ProPublica, both men emphasized that they paid the maximum amount of taxes owed.)

So what does this have to do with the art business? I’m glad you asked.

Activists of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) protest the Sacklers at the Louvre. Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.

Activists of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) protest the Sacklers at the Louvre. Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.


The term “artwashing” is normally only associated with cultural philanthropy doled out by plutocrats whose wealth can be traced to businesses or products that do direct harm to vulnerable populations. From mass-manufacturing opioids (see: the now-in-the-penalty-box Sackler family), to peddling tear gas (see: former Whitney Museum trustee Warren Kanders), to charging extortionate rates for phone time with incarcerated loved ones (see: former Los Angeles County Museum of Art trustee Tom Gores), it has not been hard in recent years to view plenty of high-dollar giving to arts organizations as outright plunder. 

Yet Giridharadas’s point is that “actually malevolent and disastrously negligent plutocrats” are not the only ones to blame for our wealth-stratified, winner-takes-all society. They just make it easier for the rest of the superrich to hide their ill effects on modern life. In fact, the Good Billionaires are actually the “most dangerous,” because they preserve the fantasy that the structure of the U.S. economy is sound and fair when in reality the foundation has been cracked and crumbling for decades. 

Mega-philanthropy, Giridharadas argues, has been the most effective camouflage for the damage. Set aside the gifts made by clean-conscience donors who would be unaffected by Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed “ultra-millionaire tax” on fortunes above $50 million. What makes donations from “supposed Good Billionaires” like Buffett and Bill Gates more insidious than donations made by “the crooks and the scoundrels and the people manifestly looking for quick P.R. highs” is that they give so much moreand are so much better at weaving a righteous narrative around those gargantuan gifts thanks to their spotless public images. 

This also means the Good Billionaires can keep pillaging the economy with little public scrutiny landing on either their own revenue streams or the system irrigating them. Giridharadas notes that in Buffett’s strenuous defense of his tax history, the Oracle of Omaha suggests his large-scale charitable giving does more for the commonwealth than robust payments to the federal government ever could. “I believe the money will be of more use to society if disbursed philanthropically than if it is used to slightly reduce an ever-increasing U.S. debt,” Buffett wrote.

Of course, his framing abstracts that the “ever-increasing U.S. debt” is a bill for actual stuff—some of which people need, and some of which they don’t. On one hand, it includes stimulus payments and enhanced unemployment benefits shown to have “substantially reduced hardship” during the Great Shutdown, as well as a minuscule amount of federal arts funding. On the other hand, it also includes regime after regime of tax cuts disproportionately benefiting a donor class that needed no extra help, as the ProPublica investigation reinforced. 

This is the ultimate irony of Buffett’s defense: if Uncle Sam was more committed to making the wealthiest plutocrats pay their fare share to support the systems that helped make them so rich, the debt wouldn’t be so big! But it isand part of the reason is that it has been spraying Good and Bad Billionaires alike with cash they didn’t need, some portion of which they went on to parcel out to nonprofits that were all the more grateful for the private largesse precisely because public funding has been reduced by the decline in tax revenues collected.

Eli Broad.Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images.

Eli Broad. Courtesy of Getty Images.


Giridharadas’s piece and the ProPublica report were both preceded by the themes in Carolina Miranda’s skeptical Los Angeles Times analysis of the supposed philanthropic void that would be created by this year’s death of mega-collector and arts patron Eli Broad. 

Aside from reinforcing to the East Coast media that L.A. has supported a thriving cultural scene for a century (and even out-donated New York in multiple recent studies), she implored the world to “retire the outmoded idea that the most important factor in a city’s cultural landscape is the presence of some white knight bearing a checkbook and grandiose ideas about turning bulldozed Los Angeles neighborhoods into the Champs-Élysées (as Broad once described his vision for Bunker Hill),” the slice of downtown where his namesake private museum now stands. 

Like Giridharadas’s argument about Buffett, Miranda’s argument zeroes in on Broad to make a larger point. Even within the Los Angeles nonprofit scene, Broad’s record had pockmarks. She reminds readers that LACMA accused him of leaving the museum “holding the bag on $5.5 million in additional construction costs” for the building on its campus otherwise erected with his money and named in his honor. (A Broad spokesperson denied the charge.) He also refused to endow the structure, sticking LACMA with all bills for its upkeep, and then ultimately kept his collection so he could open his own institution

The upshot? Mega-philanthropy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, even when we restrict our view to the donors’ impact on their home cultural landscape. 

The push for greater public funding of the arts in the U.S. has been gathering steam since last March’s lockdowns. (President Biden is receptive.) Miranda emphasizes multiple examples of robust, broad-based tax initiatives long ago implemented at the state and county levels, from Michigan to Colorado to Los Angeles. In that sense, there’s an argument the nonprofit culture sector could be at least as strong, if not stronger, after the tax code’s billionaire loopholes were closed. 

I would also add that the for-profit art trade could benefit in a similar way from serious U.S. tax reform. Market participants have lamented for years that the middle-class collectors who once sustained a more equitable version of the industry have become an endangered species. Several factors contribute to the change, but many of the most significant are tied up in the larger economy—and all are impacted by the Good Billionaire myth. 

Students pull a mock "ball and chain" representing the $1.4 trilling outstanding student debt outside the second presidential debate 2016. Image courtesy Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

Students pull a mock “ball and chain” representing the $1.4 trilling outstanding student debt outside the second presidential debate 2016. Image courtesy Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

A recent piece in Bloomberg captured millennials’ generational struggle to build the type of wealth that many boomers took for granted. After adjusting for inflation, millennials paid about 50 percent more for college than boomers, and they face a median home price about 50 percent higher. Meanwhile, their wages have risen only 20 percent over the same span. (If you’re wondering who is driving up prices in the housing market, one big answer is private-equity firms, which have been fattening their portfolios with everything from single-family houses to trailer parks.) 

The costs of simply getting by, let alone getting far enough ahead to collect art, have mounted too. Many U.S. employers offer fewer benefits than in the past, especially as gig work has replaced more traditional full-time and part-time jobs. Companies that provide healthcare, child care, and paid family leave are increasingly rare (particularly in the gallery sector). Starved of so much tax revenue from top earners, government has little capacity to fill the void with social welfare programs (though Biden’s stimulus bill aims to begin reversing the trend).

The U.S. wouldn’t have to become a mythical socialist utopia to fix this situation. Prior to Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reforms, the nation’s top marginal tax rate was 50 percent. Just as importantly, only since 1978 has investment income (capital gains) been taxed at more favorable rates than typical wage income.

Subsequent reforms have torqued the system further and further to the advantage of the mega-wealthy, eventually reaching the present-day scenario in which tax law requires Buffett and other billionaires to pay no more than a nominal amount to the common good. And all of it has been at least partly enabled by the philanthropic narrative that the superrich will take care of the rest of us, including when it comes to art and cultural spending.

The folly of that thinking has become clearer and clearer ever since the Great Recession, and the Great Shutdown has exacerbated it. From museums to galleries, from Warren Buffett to Eli Broad, the Good Billionaire myth has brought too many systems to a breaking point. How exactly we should move toward equitable, sustainable solutions is up for debate, but whether we truly need to is not. 

[The New York Times]


That’s all for this week. ‘Til next time, remember: if you look around the room and can’t figure out who the sucker is, there’s a good chance the sucker is you.

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11 Events for Your Art Calendar This Week, From Julie Mehretu at the Whitney to Alteronce Gumby in Two Boroughs

Each week, we search for the most exciting and thought-provoking shows, screenings, and events. In light of the global health crisis, we are currently highlighting events in person and digitally, as well as in-person exhibitions open in the New York area. See our picks from around the world below. (Times are all EST unless otherwise noted.)


Tuesday, March 23

"Women, Power & Promise: A Convening" at the Newark Museum of Art, featuring the Guerrilla Girls and Bobbi Brown.

“Women, Power & Promise: A Convening” at the Newark Museum of Art, featuring the Guerrilla Girls and Bobbi Brown.

1. “Women, Power, and Promise” at the Newark Museum of Art

The Newark Museum has put together a slate of programs for this Women’s History Month event, with a keynote address by cosmetics mogul Bobbi Brown, an art performance by the Guerrilla Girls, and closing remarks from Lisa Kaplowitz, executive director of the Center for Women in Business at Rutgers Business School.

Price: $50 general admission
Time: 3 p.m.–5 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Dawoud Bey, <em>Taylor Falls and Deborah Hackworth</em> from “The Birmingham Project” (2012). Photo courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery.

Dawoud Bey, Taylor Falls and Deborah Hackworth from “The Birmingham Project” (2012). Photo courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery.

2. “Dawoud Bey in Conversation With Gary Carrion-Murayari” at the New Museum, New York

As part of a conversation series held in conjunction with the museum’s new exhibition, “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America” (through June 6), artist Dawoud Bey will speak with curator Gary Carrion-Murayari. His work in the show, The Birmingham Project (2012), memorializes the six young African Americans killed in the September 15, 1963, 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 4 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Wednesday, March 24

Ronnie Goodman, <em>San Quentin Arts in Corrections Art Studio</em> (2008), detail. Collection of Prison Arts Project, William James Association.

Ronnie Goodman, San Quentin Arts in Corrections Art Studio (2008), detail. Collection of Prison Arts Project, William James Association.

3. “Honoring Ronnie Goodman” at MoMA PS1, Queens

As the museum winds down “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” (through April 5), MoMA PS1 pays tribute to Ronnie Goodman, who died last year. A self-taught artist, Goodman rediscovered his talents as a painter through the Arts in Corrections Program at San Quentin State Prison, making work that critiqued mass incarceration even after his release from jail. The virtual program will feature a new short film with rare footage of the artist and a talk by Nicole Fleetwood about his life and career.

Price: Free with RSVP
Time: 6:30 p.m.–8 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Wednesday, March 24–Saturday, May 1

Roxanne Jackson, <em>Black Flame</em> 2019). Photo courtesy of Dinner Gallery.

Roxanne Jackson, Black Flame 2019). Photo courtesy of Dinner Gallery.

4. “Magic Touch” at Dinner Gallery, New York

Jen Dwyer, who had an excellent showing of her feminist ceramic sculptures at Spring/Break New York just over a year ago, takes a turn as guest curator for this group show with an exciting line-up of artists including Faith Ringgold, Aminah Robinson, and Sophia Narrett, among others. The exhibition’s title is a reference to the handmade qualities of the works on view, inspired by the tactile experience of pushing and pulling clay in  Dwyer’s own practice, as well as the desire for physical connection after a year of isolation.

Location: Dinner Gallery, 242 West 22nd Street, New York
Price: Free
Time: By appointment

—Sarah Cascone


Thursday, March 25

The passage of a cruise ship in the St. Mark’s Basin in Venice, Italy. (2014). Photo by: Delfino Sisto Legnani/World Monuments Fund Image courtesy Fondazione Venezia 2000

The passage of a cruise ship in the St. Mark’s Basin in Venice, Italy. Photo by: Delfino Sisto Legnani/World Monuments Fund Image courtesy Fondazione Venezia 2000

5. “When Will We Return to Venice and Should We?” Hosted by World Monuments Fund

When the pandemic brought tourism in Venice to a halt last year, it dealt a serious blow to the city’s economy but simultaneously provided a respite from the year-round throng of visitors and tourists. In this virtual discussion, WMF President and CEO Bénédicte de Montlaur will be joined by guest speakers Jane da Mosto (environmental scientist and founding president of We are here Venice) and visual artists Tomás Saraceno and David Landau to discuss these issues and others.

Price: Free with RSVP
Time: 12 p.m.

—Eileen Kinsella


Thursday, March 25–Sunday, August 8

Julie Mehretu,<eM> Conjured Parts (eye). Ferguson, 2016</em>. Photo by Cathy Carver, courtesy of the Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles, ©Julie Mehretu.

Julie Mehretu, Conjured Parts (eye). Ferguson, 2016. Photo by Cathy Carver, courtesy of the Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles, ©Julie Mehretu.

6. “Julie Mehretu” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

This mid-career survey of Julie Mehretu originated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which co-organized the show with the Whitney. It features some 30 paintings—some mammoth-sized—as well as works of paper, and showcases the artist’s ability to speak to such fraught issues as history, colonialism, capitalism, geopolitics, and war in largely abstract works.

Location: Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street
 $25 general admission
Time: Monday, 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10:30 a.m.–6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Through Wednesday, March 31

Suejin Jo, <em>Prayer Rock<em> (2020). Photo courtesy of the New York Society of Women Artists.

Suejin Jo, Prayer Rock (2020). Photo courtesy of the New York Society of Women Artists.

7. “Women on the Edge of of Time” at Taller Boricua Gallery, New York

The New York Society of Women Artists, founded in 1925, is marking Women’s History Month with a virtual exhibition that considers its nearly century-long history, and the ways in which its founding concerns remain at the fore to this day. The 36 participating artists in this show also address pressing social issues such as immigration and LGTBQ rights. See the artworks and read the artist statements on the gallery’s virtual viewing room, and watch YouTube videos from each women about their work on the society’s website.

Price: Free
Time: On view daily at all times

—Nan Stewert


Through Sunday, April 11

Destiny Belgrave, Blooming Sprout, 2021 Courtesy of Deanna Evans Projects

8. “Destiny Belgrave: Birthright” at Deanna Evans Projects, Brooklyn

Deanna Evans Projects presents a solo show by Brooklyn-based artist Destiny Belgrave as its second exhibition. The show consists entirely of works on paper and highlights the importance of matriarchs in the artist’s life through paper cutouts, floral imagery, and poetry. The figures are women in Belgrave’s life, including her mother, sister, and herself and the show is a deeply personal exploration of the themes of youth, birth, and bonding.

Location: Deanna Evans Projects, 1329 Willoughby Avenue, #171 E, Brooklyn
Time: By appointment only

—Neha Jambhekar



Through Sunday, April 25 

Installation view "Somewhere Under the Rainbow / The Sky is Blue and What am I Glass am I" (2021). Courtesy of False Flag.

Installation view “Somewhere Under the Rainbow / The Sky is Blue and What am I Glass am I” (2021). Courtesy of False Flag.

9.”Alteronce Gumby: Somewhere Under the Rainbow/The Sky is Blue and What am I Glass am I” at Charles Moffett and False Flag

Sixteen of Alteronce Gumby’s new color-centric abstractions are currently on view in a two-part exhibition split between Charles Moffett in Manhattan and False Flag in Long Island City. At Charles Moffett, visitors will find a selection of Gumby’s visually dazzling gemstone-filled works on panel—lapis lazuli, ruby, amethyst, rose quartz, lemon quartz, fluorite, black tourmaline, and citrine are integrated into his painted glass panels and sealed with acrylic. The exhibition at False Flag, meanwhile, is anchored by a 24-foot-long, six-panel canvas work that, in various shades of blue, considers our relationship to the sky. While rooted in this history of Abstract Expressionism, Gumby’s abstractions, with their seemingly infinite variations of color, consider how light, physics, and natural materials can be contextualized into conversations about race and spirituality. 

Location:  Charles Moffett, 511 Canal Street #200/Buzzer 3; False Flag, 11-22 44th Road Long Island City
Price: Free
Time: Charles Moffett is open by appointment, Thursday–Sunday; False Flag is open by appointment, Friday–Sunday

—Katie White


Through Wednesday, September 1

Chris Bogia, The Sun, The City, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Mrs. Photo by Marcie Revens.

Chris Bogia, The Sun, The City, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Mrs. Photo by Marcie Revens.

10. “Chris Bogia: The Sun, the City” and “Jade Yumang: Open House Spatter” from Time Equities Inc. and Art-in-Buildings

A new installation in Lower Manhattan provides a safe, socially distanced way to see art… and one that suggests a day when we will no longer have to socially distance, no less. New York artist Chris Bogia’s The Sun, The City (2021) consists of a radiant, 15-foot-wide mandala hanging on the wall of the lobby at 125 Maiden Lane, shining down on a geometric cityscape. The artist describes the work as having “nostalgic references to groovier times,” and the work is visible from the street, if you don’t want to venture indoors. If you do, though, you’ll also get to experience Jade Yumang’s Open House Spatter (2021), in which he investigates queer histories through design metaphors.

Location: 125 Maiden Lane, New York
Time: On view daily at all times

—Brian Boucher


Through Sunday, September 26

Artist: Collective Magpie; Courtesy of El Museo del Barrio

11. “Estamos Bien: La Trienal 20/21” at El Museo del Barrio, New York

Currently in Harlem’s El Museo del Barrio is a survey of more than 40 established and emerging Latinx contemporary artists from across the diaspora of the United States and Puerto Rico. The exhibition includes a diverse range of subject matters and meda media, resonating with the complexities of identity in the Latinx community. Exhibited artists include Francis Almendárez, Luis Flores, Manuela González, xime izquierdo ugaz, Poncili Creación, Yelaine Rodriguez, and Raelis Vasquez, among others.

Location: El Museo del Barrio, 1230 5th Avenue, New York
 Suggested admission $9
Time: Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m.–5 p.m.

—Cristina Cruz

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15 Events for Your Art Calendar This Week, From Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons to a Virtual Visit With Kenny Scharf

Each week, we search for the most exciting and thought-provoking shows, screenings, and events. In light of the global health crisis, we are currently highlighting events in person and digitally, as well as in-person exhibitions open in the New York area. See our picks from around the world below. (Times are all EST unless otherwise noted.)


Tuesday, March 2

Ja'Tovia Gary, THE GIVERNY SUITE, detail (2019). © Ja’Tovia Gary. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert.

Ja’Tovia Gary, THE GIVERNY SUITE, detail (2019). © Ja’Tovia Gary. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo: Steven Probert.

1. “When Did Video Become Art? On Surveillance” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

If you’re looking for a compact primer on how video moved from its origins in TV broadcasts and security cameras into the art-historical canon, then tune in to the next edition of the Whitney’s ongoing “Art History From Home” series. This week, artist, author, and lecturer Ayanna Dozier will use vital works by the likes of Andrea Fraser, Ja’Tovia Gary, Jill Magid, and others to walk viewers through video art’s complex relationship to our contemporary surveillance state, as well as how artists can use the medium to short-circuit the intrusive machinic gaze we now live under.

Price: Free with registration

Time: 6 p.m. 

—Tim Schneider


Kenny Scharf's Los Angeles studio. Photo courtesy of Kenny Scharf Studio.

Kenny Scharf’s Los Angeles studio. Photo courtesy of Kenny Scharf Studio.

2. “Kenny Scharf Virtual Visit” at RxART, New York

RxArt members can tune in for this virtual studio with Kenny Scharf, who will talk about projects such as his mural in the stairwell of the pediatric and adolescent psychiatric units at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. The street artist-turned-blue-chip darling will chat with dealer David Totah—tuning in from Scharf’s permanent FUNUNDERWORLD installation at his New York gallery—and RxArt founder Diane Brown.

Price: Free for Friends of RxART (membership is $100)
Time: 1 p.m.

—Tanner West 


Wednesday, March 3

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

3. “The Modern Portrait” hosted by the Philadelphia Show

As part of a monthly series, “New Conversations with the  Philadelphia Show,” University of Pennsylvania associate professor Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw and Philadelphia Museum of Art curator Jessica T. Smith highlight how 15 artists used portraiture to frame their perception of people and experiment with techniques, as well as to reflect on social issues.

Price: Free with registration.
Time: 5:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m.

—Eileen Kinsella


Courtesy of the Helsinki Biennial.

Courtesy of the Helsinki Biennial.

4. “Helsinki Biennial Talks – Lecture by Dr. Paul O’Neill: The Biennial Impact” at the Helsinki Biennial

Irish curator, artist, writer, and educator Paul O’Neill will take a look at the worldwide proliferation of the art biennial over the past 20 years, with an eye toward covering “everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask” in the first virtual program for the inaugural Helsinki Biennial.

Price: Free
Time: 9:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.

—Tanner West 


Mildred Thomas, <em> Construction </em> (c. 1973). Courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

Mildred Thomas, Construction (c. 1973). Courtesy of Galerie Lelong.

5. “Dialogues – Expanding the Legacy of Mildred Thompson” at Galerie Lelong, New York

In conjunction with its second solo exhibition of Mildred Thompson—a previously overlooked Black artist of the  Modernist era—”Throughlines, Assemblages and Works on Paper from the 1960s to the 1990s,” Galerie Lelong hosts the second event in its new “Dialogues” series, moderated by Melissa Messina, curator of the artist’s estate. The speakers include artist A’Driane Nieves, founder of Philadelphia’s Tessera Arts Collective, and Lauren Jackson Harris and Daricia Mia DeMarr, founders of Black Women in Visual Art.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 2 p.m.–3 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Thursday, March 4

Image courtesy of The Shed. Clockwise from top left: Howardena Pindell, Heather Hart, Shani Peters, Tiona Nekkia McClodden. Photos: Nathan Keay; Heather Hart; Texas Isaiah; Chanel Matsunami Govreau.

6. “Pindell’s Legacy: Artists/Activists/Educators” hosted by the Shed

This is your last chance to catch an installment of “Pindell’s Legacy,” a series of online talks exploring the work of artist Howardena Pindell. The talk, moderated by The Shed assistant curator Adeze Wilford, will feature Pindell alongside interdisciplinary artists Heather Hart, Shani Peters, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden. “Pindell’s Legacy” has run in tandem with “Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water,” a video project by the artist that was unrealized since the 1970s. Through a mix of personal anecdotes and historical data, Pindell’s first video in over 25 years explores racism, the history of lynching in the US, and the healing power of art. If you’re in the New York area, you can catch the show in-person at The Shed through March 28.

Price: Free with registration.
Time: 6:30 p.m.

—Katie Rothstein


Courtesy of a Blade of Grass

Courtesy of A Blade of Grass.

7. “Making Change Now: Contextualizing Cancel Culture, Hyper-Partisanship, and the Politics of Progress” at a Blade of Grass, New  York

After an organizational restructuring that winnowed the staff of A Blade of Grass to just one—director Deborah Fisher—the nonprofit kicks off its new season of programming with community organizer and cultural worker Scot Nakagawa and racial justice and human rights expert Loretta J. Ross. The two will discuss the influence of the media and the ways in which it helps drive partisan divisions within society, and how people’s consumption of media shapes their beliefs.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 6 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Sandhya Kochar. Photo courtesy of Sandhya Kochar. Torkwase Dyson. Photo by Gabe Souza. Ann Hamliton. Photo by Calista Lyon.

Sandhya Kochar, Torkwase Dyson, Ann Hamilton. Photos by Gabe Souza and Calista Lyon.

8. “Torkwase Dyson in Conversation with Ann Hamilton and Sandhya Kochar” at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio

The Wexner continues its “Diversities in Practice” talk series with Torkwase Dyson, the museum’s residency award recipient, who will speak about her work with Ohio State art professor Ann Hamilton and architecture lecturer Sandhya Kochar.

Price: Free with RSVP
Time: 7 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


George Mumford. Nadia Hallgren. Photo by JJ Medina.

George Mumford, Nadia Hallgren. Photo by JJ Medina.

9. “Lens Mix 4: Nadia Hallgren and George Mumford” at FotoFocus, Cincinnati

FotoFocus’s LensMix conversation series returns with filmmaker Nadia Hallgren and sports coach George Mumford, who will discuss overcoming professional boundaries facing African Americans to work with the likes of Michelle Obama and Kobe Bryant.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 6 p.m.

—Nan Stewert

Thursday, March 4–Sunday, March 14

Sophie Kahn, <em>The Divers VI</em>. Courtesy of the artist.

Sophie Kahn, The Divers VI. Courtesy of the artist.

10. “Sophie Kahn: Dematerialized” on Mozilla Hubs

Nearly a year after lockdown cancelled her exhibition “Dematerialized” at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Sophie Kahn is finally debuting the show, albeit in dramatically altered form, staged in the world of VR. The artist has recreated both the physical space and the works themselves, which were 3-D printed sculptures based on scans of live models in different poses. You can book a virtual tour where Kahn will guide your avatar through the interactive 3-D experience, in which sculptures expand and levitate off their pedestals as you approach. (A VR headset is recommended, but optional, to experience the show.)

Price: Free with registration
Time: Opening, 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m., and by virtual appointment

—Sarah Cascone


Friday, March  5

Illustration by franzidraws. Courtesy of the Design Museum Everywhere.

Illustration by franzidraws. Courtesy of the Design Museum Everywhere.

11. “Design’s Role in Equity: Diversity in Action Preview Workshop” at the Design Museum Everywhere, Boston

The Design Museum Everywhere is hosting a free workshop to preview its “Diversity in Action” training program, a three-month course hosted by its director of learning and interpretation, Diana Navarrete-Rackauckas with the aim of illustrating the role design plays in equity.

Price: Free with RSVP
Time: 1 p.m.–2 p.m.

—Nan Stewert


Through Saturday, March 6

"Joyce Pensato: Fuggetabout It (Redux)" installation view (2021). Photo courtesy of Petzel.

“Joyce Pensato: Fuggetabout It (Redux),” installation view (2021). Photo courtesy of Petzel.

12. “Joyce Pensato Fuggetabout It (Redux)” at Petzel, New York

In 2011, Joyce Pensato was evicted from her East Williamsburg studio after 32 years. She turned her legal defeat into art, staging a critically acclaimed exhibition at Petzel featuring hundreds of paint-splattered objects from her former workspace. She showed the installation in two other iterations during her lifetime; now, her estate has worked with the gallery to stage a “Redux” version, accompanied by the late artists’s “eyeball” paintings, based on characters such as Elmo and Felix the Cat.

Location: Petzel, 456 West 18th Street, New York
Price: Free
Time: Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Saturday, March 6

Guests at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon: Art + Feminism at MoMA. Photo by Manuel Molina Martagon, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

Guests at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon: Art + Feminism at MoMA. Photo by Manuel Molina Martagon, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

13. “The Met x Wikipedia Virtual Edit Meet-up: Women’s History Month” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Met is one of 57 institutions around the world holding an Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon for Women’s History Month. Edit-a-thons look to add information about women artists to the free online encyclopedia to boost efforts to bridge the gender gap in the art world. The Wikimedia NYC chapter will provide lists of artists and artworks, as well as training on editing and creating articles. Tune in on Facebook or YouTube to watch, or sign up on the Wikipedia Meetup page.

Price: Free
Time: 12:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Through Saturday, March 27

Jordan Kasey, Storm, 2020 Courtesy of Nicelle Beauchene Gallery

14. “Jordan Kasey: The Storm” at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York City

Nicelle Beauchene Gallery presents “The Storm,” Jordan Kasey’s third solo show with the gallery. The show consists of eight new large-scale paintings with the artist’s signature figures that take up the entirety of the surface. The paintings depict slices of loneliness: a solo man with an umbrella, a figure lit up with lightning, which leaves the viewer to wonder if the storm is literal internal. Light and shadow is used to create the feeling that something is looming just out of view, giving each work a surreal, dreamlike quality.

Location: Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, 7 Franklin Place, New York
Time: Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Neha Jambhekar


Through Saturday, March 20 

Installation view "Eric Standley: Songs for the Living," 2020. Courtesy of Dinner Gallery.

Installation view “Eric Standley: Songs for the Living,” 2020. Courtesy of Dinner Gallery.

15. “Eric Standley: Songs for the Living” at Dinner Gallery

Made of scrupulously arranged layers of multicolor laser-cut paper, Eric Standley’s intricate works bring to mind mandalas, Gothic architectural webs, and the delicate carvings common to Islamic prayer niches. Though newly made, Standley calls the work artifacts because, for him, the act of assembling them is akin to an act of discovering—as though the forms already exist out in the world, and he has happened upon them. Set against bright, geometric forms painted onto the gallery walls, the exhibition has the feel of a sanctum, a place with reverence for complexity, study, and moments of peaceful contemplation.

Location: Dinner Gallery, 242 West 22nd Street, New York
Price: Free
Time: By appointment, Tuesday–Saturday

—Katie White

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