While Donald Trump can apparently “appreciate” fine art, he prefers “higher return investments” such as real estate.
The President-elect is, say, slightly less indifferent towards French Impressionist paintings – namely the works of Pierre-Auguste Renoir – with several pieces hanging in his New York City penthouse and on his private jet. But there’s widespread speculation over their authenticity; no evidence in major auction house records suggests any such purchases in his name, nor is it likely that an eight-figure Renoir would be carelessly subjected to potential in-flight damage. The Renoir pictured in Melania’s office below is almost certainly a reproduction, as the original La Loge is housed in London’s Courtauld Institute of Art.
Looking back on his “cringe-worthy” interview with Trump for Vanity Fair in 2015, reporter Mark Bowden recalls, “He showed off the gilded interior of his plane – calling me over to inspect a Renoir on its walls, beckoning me to lean in closely to see…what? The luminosity of the brush strokes? The masterly use of color? No. The signature. ‘Worth ten million,’ he told me.” While it’s curious that a man of Trump’s means would purchase reproductions over originals only to brag about presumably fabricated prices, the real issue lies more with Trump’s attitude towards art.
This perspective is part of a long-withstanding disregard for artistic value – and that’s ‘value’ beyond the monetary. Trump was cacophonous in 1999 when the Brooklyn Museum exhibited Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili’s provocative work, The Holy Virgin Mary (1996). The controversial painting, which depicts the Madonna through non-traditional materials such as real fecal matter and pornographic collages, stirred outrage for its perceived blasphemy. Trump responded in full force with a demand for censorship and a call for severed arts funding.
Trump, whose dreams of presidency date back to the 1980s, released a statement to the Daily News calling the piece “absolutely gross, degenerate stuff” without any investigation of its complex cultural and historical nuances. He went on to say, “As president, I would ensure that the National Endowment of the Arts stops funding of this sort.” The organization (which is in fact the National Endowment for the Arts) didn’t even fund this particular exhibition of the celebrated British artist’s work at the Brooklyn Museum, but platform of inaccuracy aside, we’re now left to worry that Trump will put his money where his mouth is.
Trump’s lack of support for the arts speaks volumes about his worldview. His contempt for creative expression undeniably impacts those in the industry first and foremost by jeopardizing jobs and undermining creativity. But generally-speaking, people who appreciate art for its provocation and beauty are thought to possess greater levels of open-mindedness, introspection, and acceptance – essential qualities that Trump unapologetically and even proudly lacks.
What the soon-to-be president fails to appreciate is that art is (in many instances) a raw depiction of fear and woe. It’s a means of communicating unmet needs and an effective gauge for our well-being – or lack thereof. If Trump intends to subvert the arts, will he not subvert his own people?