Petition Calls for Museum to Cancel Loan to Trump Inaugural Luncheon


Hyperallergic reports that two St. Louis area residents have launched a petition demanding that the Saint Louis Art Museum cancel its loan of the George Caleb Bingham painting “Verdict of the People” (1854–55) for Donald Trump’s Inaugural Luncheon in Washington, DC later this month. The petition, created by art historian Ivy Cooper of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and St. Louis artist Ilene Berman, is gaining signatures.

Bingham's 1855 painting is from a trilogy depicting American politics and elections.

Berman explained her objection to the loan for the Trump inauguration, saying: “The painting is described as depicting an election in rural Missouri, and is titled, ‘Verdict of the People.’ I imagine those ideas were poetic for the selection committee. Given all of the different obstacles to voting there are in this country, as well as the mismatch between the popular vote and the Electoral College, the painting itself seems particularly unfit.” [Clinton won some 3 million more votes than Trump.]

Brent Benjamin, the museum’s director, responded to Hyperallergic:

The museum takes no position on candidates for public office, nor does it support or oppose individuals elected to such offices. It does, however, support the office of the presidency itself. When the bipartisan Joint Congressional Commission on Inaugural Ceremonies requested the loan of a painting for the Inaugural Luncheon, it was an honor for the museum to participate in this long-standing tradition.

To which Cooper and Berman responded (in part):

First, we feel that the museum falsely assumes that this electoral process was within the bounds of normalcy. We, and the signatories of the petition, do not agree and because of that think the customary responses to requests of this sort need to be made with more care and more concern for the Museum’s community. Second, lending this artwork for this specific inauguration is not an ‘honor’ because it normalizes the hatred, sexual abuse, and disregard for the office expressed by the president elect. We, too, ‘support the presidency’ and believe the withholding of this specific artwork on this occasion would be a strong expression of our community’s respect for the office of the President.

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