Please see below for a statement from Steve Wilson, Chairman and CEO of 21c Museum Hotels.
My wife and I started 21c Museum Hotel to share contemporary art with new audiences and to revitalize the corner of 7th and West Main Street in downtown Louisville. We believe in the power of innovative and thought-provoking art to transform communities. We collect artwork created by artists from all over the world that address important topics of today, including the environment, social justice, identity, sexuality, gender issues and racial inequities. Our art collection and the exhibitions at 21c may sometimes be provocative but are not intended to be offensive. We must be honest with ourselves about our history as it has informed our present and will impact our future. 21c is committed to inclusivity and will continue to support broad, thoughtful, and ongoing conversation about important topics.
Over a year ago, we commissioned artists Fallen Fruit to transform Proof on Main restaurant with their immersive art installation, The Practices of Everyday Life. The installations address themes of legacy and death. Every room in the 4-part installation is covered with portraits and illustrations, and the narratives attached to these histories are complicated. The people on the walls have been persecuted for invalid reasons or by justifications that are simply not true. In the installation entitled Farm to Table (1864 to 2016), the artists explore Kentucky’s agrarian roots. Images of some of the complex histories about Kentucky evoke contemporary issues that persist in the United States today, including our relationship to food production, systemic poverty, and urban development.
Below is an excerpt from the artists, David Burns and Austin Young, and, attached, is their complete statement regarding this exhibition (Fallen Fruit Official Statement):
“We have recently learned that one particular image that was sourced from the Library of Congress archives and was originally created as a postcard that would have been circulated during the Civil War has created an unintended response. Anger and threats of violence sparked by this image is not how we imagined the installation artwork performing. We request that the image be removed from the installation as there is not one image that is more important than another in the entirety of the installation – in the same way that we feel that not one person in this world is more important than another person. In place of this historic image we, the artists, request that a vintage mirror be installed from the same era that the illustration was created. Hopefully this will continue to allow guests of the exhibition to find ways to place themselves inside the awkward spaces of the installation artwork.”
After much deliberation, we felt that we should listen to the artists who created this installation and to our community. The artists, who call themselves Fallen Fruit, asked that the image in question be replaced with a mirror from the same era. What a brilliant addition to the artwork – a mirror to reflect upon who we are as individuals, as a community and as a nation, past, present and future.
I’m thankful for the healthy conversations that we have had with community leaders such as the Urban League, the NAACP, and Christopher II X as a result of this exhibition and of recent events organized by 21c to facilitate discussion around important topics today, including an event in February with the ACLU on Art, Advocacy and Activism and an event in March in partnership with the Carnegie Center for Art & History on #BlackArtMatters. I’m hopeful that this dialogue will continue in our community, and that 21c will continue to foster these important conversations through our art exhibitions and cultural programming.
Chairman & CEO, 21c Museum Hotels