Identity Politics and The Arts



By Sigrid Weidenweber

Years ago, fifty-five to be to precise, my husband took me, his newly arrived German bride, to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. At that time, I was only 5 years removed from Communist, Berlin, Germany and totally unsophisticated in the teachings and wonders of modern art. At that point, I was woefully steeped in mostly conservative and worker’s realism art—it was all the regime allowed to be seen. I vividly remember entering a hall, perhaps the third exhibition room, where I found to my amazement a humongous white canvas, of maybe 15 feet by 20 feet, sporting three black circles of ascending circumference. A little cardboard sign announced the name of the artist and the title of the work and its price.

I have forgotten the artist and title of the circle work—but not the price. It was $58,000. That, at a time, when $25.00 bought everything a family of four needed to live on in a week. To say that I was thunderstruck taking in the amount of money the artist thought his work was owed, does not express the true state of my mind. Bereft of modern art education, I remember loudly blurting out, “so much money—for that? I could do that with a large compass. The canvas cannot cost that much—so where is the art?”

Needless to say, the instant silence surrounding me was deafening. Prognosticating, I felt that most people present assumed that an unwashed rube had entered the rarefied halls of art and committed sacrilege. To my surprise, I heard a few people laughing and clapping, and a loud male voice proclaimed, “Damned she is right.” My mate, rarely embarrassed stood laughing beside me. He thought my brazen honesty was hilarious.

Since this time, my day of “art infamy,” I have learned a lot. Education, however, has not made me an aficionado of all modern art. I have been called semi-sophisticated, conservative, bereft of understanding of what constitutes modern art. That, however, has made no impression on me. As in literature, the visual arts and music—I know what I like. I know what elevates my soul, my mood and what stimulates the best parts of my psyche. I also know with certainty the kind of art that arouses in me disdain, anger, and even hilarity.

Looking today at a picture of the National Gallery of Art, I discern a wall, dotted with multicolored squares and a huge, red mobile. It’s long, bent, metal arm dangles different-sized red leaves on the end. You can find a smaller version of this kind of mobile over your baby’s crib. Oh, wow! It’s all stuff anyone can make in shop-class in high-school. Nothing evokes emotion. Nothing brings more thought to my mind except for the mechanical question on how “the artist” cantilevered the mobile.

So, now I bared my soul before you. I did this for a purpose. Not only did I, and God only knows how many other Americans have questioning thoughts about the American Gallery of Art, an institution, may I remind you that thrives with $140 millions from the tax-payer’s purse, on a budget of $190 million budget.

On December 19, 2018, Roger Kimball posted an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled The National Gallery of Identity Politics. Well, here we have it! It’s not enough to shape the Nation’s taste in art—with the announcement of the new director of the museum, Kaywin Feldman, the museum will tackle gender equality, social justice, and diversity.” Hooray! Just the subjects I want embodied in modern art.  Roger Kimball remarks with salty sarcasm that future obituarists should start their epitaph for the demise of the museum with the ascendancy of Kaywin Feldman.

At this point, I defer to Roger Kimball. He expresses my thoughts even more eloquently than I could. So, here they are,

“All the announcements of Ms. Feldman’s appointment have breathlessly noted that she will be the first woman” to hold the top job at the museum.” It’s meant as homage, and I hope I will be forgiven if I point out how patronizing are such declarations. In any case, the thing to appreciate about Ms. Feldman is not her sex but her slavish devotion to transforming the museum into a leftwing political redoubt.

In an article for Apollo magazine last May, she began by establishing her anti-Trump bona fides, bemoaning the psychological toll that his presidency is taking on our collective psyche.

That done, she proceeded to assure us that art museums are intensely political organizations, adducing not only such global themes as love, death and religion, but also imperialism, colonialism, war, oppression, discrimination, slavery, misogyny, rape and more.”

Roger Kimball elucidates further, that Ms. Feldman has the white staff of the museum in her gun-sights and believes, according to her script, that the museum must include all objectives of the left.

He concludes that her appointment is the latest step to turn the museum into a subordinate of the arts to politics. Sadly, I can only concur. With the spirit of truth, beauty and the elevation of the human spirit removed from the Museum it will be just another indoctrination place for the left. How can we separate our tax-money from such endeavors? Please let me know your ideas.

Sigrid Weidenweber grew up in communist East Berlin, escaping it using a French passport. Ms. Weidenweber holds a degree in medical technology as well as psychology and has course work in Anthropology.  She is co-founder of Aid for Afghans.  Weidenweber has traveled the world and lived with Pakistani Muslims, learning about the culture and religion. She is a published author and lecturer. You can find her books on

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Citizen Reporter

Well done.