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The Tipping Point

Are challenges to institutions for the public good?

Climate protesters in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in March. (Photo by Michael Brochstein / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

In Allan's Intro

“This was a year of protest and activism,” writes Cristina Ruiz in this issue, in which we look back on 2019 and the major events that have shaped the year, as well as best exhibitions and books. 

From fires to floods, from new trade agreements between East and West to collapsing old relationships between the US and the international cultural community, Cristina reviews the most significant events of the year.

Some of the moments of greatest gravity have been brought about by artists who, increasingly, are raising their voices to force change upon institutions around the world. There have been major trigger points of protest and activism in the art world before—the Vietnam War and student rebellions in Europe and Latin America in the 1960s, for example. Racial and gender inequality were touchstone issues especially in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s and again now, grimly. Has so little changed over the past 50 years, even in culture and the institutions that exist to represent it and serve the public?

While the art world can often get politics wrong, the demands being made by artists are moving towards a tipping point. Certainly some of the friction will be fruitful, and bring about change in the economic, intellectual, political, racial, and social fabric of our public institutions, their leadership, content, and audiences. Who knows what potentials will be unleashed in art, our understanding of it, and where it leads us when we embrace greater complexity. 

Change is coming, whether you like it or not.

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