Early last week, unusual emails flooded collectors’ inboxes. Galleries across the United States were speaking out against the systemic racism and police brutality that became impossible to ignore in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis Police Department custody and the ensuing protests across the country and around the world. Some galleries promised to match donations to specific organizations or organized benefit sales, while others simply sent out statements in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and lists of organizations recipients could support.
The swiftness of this response was at first surprising: Galleries’ clients are collectors whose political beliefs aren’t necessarily radical, liberal, or even inclined toward social justice endeavors. On the other hand, galleries are also loyal to their artists, whose positions, broadly speaking, tend to be firmly on the left side of the political spectrum. A number of galleries shared their motivations for making explicit statements about their own allegiances, and discussed the feedback they’ve received. While a few faced minor backlash, their responses indicate a larger shift in the way the industry, and many Americans, are thinking about the current crisis—opting to speak out rather than remain quiet for fear of causing offense.