[URBAN NOTE] “When Your Art Is in Trump Tower”
Canadian Art‘s Rosie Prata talks with artists in Toronto and Vancouver whose works are now located in those cities’ Trump Towers. How do they react to having their art on display in these buildings?
Much has been made of Trump’s taste, or lack thereof. Though he has existed in the public imagination for nearly four decades, evidence of his interests or tastes in regards to art are scarce. We know he knows the word, at least, because the book attributed to him, Trump: The Art of the Deal (1987), uses “art” in its title. (But then again, maybe that was a contribution from Tony Schwartz.)
At Trump’s three-storey penthouse apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, a gaudy marble-and-gold rococo travesty lit by candelabras, there’s no art on view, except for a reproduction of Renoir’s La Loge in Melania’s office, and various depictions of Greek gods. “Part of the beauty of me,” Trump once explained, “is that I am very rich.”
One would expect to see a similar display of garishness at the properties that bear his name, but for the two in Canada—the aforementioned Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto and Trump Tower in Vancouver—it turns out that such expectations are wrong. Many of the artworks come from artists whose own political views are in opposition to all that Trump stands for.
Though Trump is a shareholder in some of the buildings that bear his name, including those in New York, Las Vegas and Chicago, he has limited involvement in many Trump properties, and very little decision-making power in regards to what art is housed in the franchises embellished with his name. The buildings themselves have been sites of protest, and the Vancouver Women’s March event on January 21 includes a stop at the Trump building on West Georgia Street.
A 500,000-piece mosaic themed on multiculturalism, created by Stephen Andrews, a gay artist who has lived openly with HIV for decades, adorns the covered driveway leading into Toronto’s Trump Tower. Andrews is an artist whose politics are sure to offend the delicate sensibilities of Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, who believes in the efficacy of electro-conversion therapy for LGTBQ+ people.
There’s also the Michael Snow–designed Lightline, a streak of light reaching to the Tower’s 65-story peak. When it was installed in 2012, the Toronto Star called it “a mix of bold flashing colours with a weird thing on top,” noting that “the skyscraper light appears to be the manifestation of Donald Trump himself.” Later that same year, Toronto Life reported that the artwork was malfunctioning, but conceded that at least it wasn’t “demanding its money back,” as its investors were, “or smashing on the street below,” as the building’s antenna and glass panels had. A 2013 profile of Snow noted that “Trump and Snow actually have a lot in common: unshakable ego, wilful disregard for public opinion and a knack for stoking controversy.” It’s a comparison that Snow would now likely contest.