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Outrage Follows a Painter From the Whitney Biennial to Boston

Nevertheless, a group of “local artists, activists and community members” have written an open letter to the museum in which they said that they “do not feel that the I.C.A. is making a responsible decision as an institution of art and culture” in supporting Ms. Schutz’s work.


Ms. Schutz’s “Open Casket” (2016), at the Whitney Biennial earlier this year. The painting is based on a photograph of the mutilated body of Emmett Till.

Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Nine of the letter writers met with Ms. Respini and members of the museum’s staff on July 20 to voice their concerns. They wrote the open letter on Tuesday out of dissatisfaction with the meeting’s results. (The exhibition opened Wednesday, and there have been no protests.)

The letter seems unrelated to the paintings included in the exhibition. The work “Open Casket” is mentioned repeatedly, and the writers call on the museum to “face the moral gravitas of reckless cultural insensibilities of artists in their charge and not waver due to the weight of their bottom lines.”

At the end of the letter are four demands, including that the museum should acknowledge the controversy surrounding “Open Casket” by adding wall text about it to the exhibition gallery, and that Ms. Schutz appear in a panel discussion with Ms. Respini and Barbara Lewis, director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black History and Culture at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Colette Randall, a spokeswoman for the museum, said that Ms. Schutz gave birth last week and was thus unlikely to make a public appearance. In addition, the museum already had plans for a forum discussion in collaboration with the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Jill Medvedow, the museum’s director, said in a statement, “We welcome the opportunity for debate and reflection on the issues of representation and responsibility, sympathy and empathy, art and social justice.”

She added, “Complex, challenging, sensitive, and urgent, these are issues deserving of thoughtful discourse.”

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