“This is the new punk. Republican is the new cool,” said Milo Yiannopoulos at the reception for #DaddyWillSaveUs, a pro-Trump art exhibition that opened Saturday at Wallplay’s Gallery 151 in Chelsea.
Wearing oversized sunglasses, gold chains and frosted tips, the gay, alt-right activist and notorious Twitter troll was preparing to sit in a bathtub full of what was said to be pig blood. Photographs on the wall above it depicted “people who were killed, they were murdered by illegal aliens,” he said. Then he dedicated his performance, described as “an expression or frustration of how fucked the media is,” to the “victims of Islamic terrorism, too, whether it’s Orlando, 7/7, 9/11.”
The preppy, conservative curator and brains behind this show was Lucian Wintrich. Earlier in the year, Wintrich lost his job at an advertising firm because of his homoerotic photography series, Twinks4Trump, but on Saturday he was back with a vengeance. He brought with him a motley crew of outspoken conservative artists and activists, including muckraker James O’Keefe, hipster godfather turned talk-show host Gavin McInnes, and renowned pharma-bro Martin Shkreli.
Earlier in the day, news had broken about Donald Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment. Milo’s response was to laugh it off. “We had so much fun today,” he said, “with dear Daddy getting into so much trouble again.” Then he launched into a speech about the political correctness that keeps us from expressing “opinions that millions of ordinary Americans hold, which are not bigoted or racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, whatever the fuck else.”
By the end of his performance, Milo had splashed pig’s blood all over the place, to the horror of Wallplay’s founder Laura O’Reilly. In an apology released today, O’Reilly said she thought the exhibit would be satirical when she agreed to rent out the gallery for it, only to discover when the opening began that it was “a platform for hate.” Though it was a “very uncomfortable and disturbing experience,” she decided not to shut down the show lest it “fuel their narrative that liberals are fascist and the art world was censoring them.” She pledged to donate Wallplay’s commission to a women’s empowerment charity.
O’Reilly told us today that she had received numerous emails from people who were upset that she had rented the space to a pro-Trump show. Even the space’s lease owner, a Clinton supporter, asked her to kibosh the exhibit. But the real “flurry of hate mail” came after Breitbart readers spotted a photo of the “WE DO NOT SUPPORT TRUMP” sign that she had posted at the show. “I got some people who were incredibly cruel, cursing at me and calling me horrible things. It was very intense the day after,” O’Reilly said.
While previous shows hosted by Wallplay have championed liberal causes, the artists of #DaddyWillSaveUs instead took aim at the Hillary Clinton campaign and the “regressive left.” One of those artists, Alex Habighorst, believes that Trump represents the “middle American revolution.” Though he describes himself as primarily a writer and not an artist, he teamed up with “a friend who seeks to remain anonymous” to add a Make America Great Again hat to a McDonald’s ad featuring Martin Luther King. The goal of the piece was to transform “bland corporate moralism” into “the ultimate rebellion against the idols of our age,” Habighorst said.
Elsewhere, Oakland-based artist Jonathan Proby contributed a satirical family portrait of Republicans vs. Democrats, “Rise of the Republic.” It showcased Hillary and other liberals in front of an urban dystopia while a waving American flag framed Trump as he gave a thumbs up.
— Jon Pro (@RawTheoryMC) October 9, 2016
Behind the bar staff was a version of the “Think Different” posters that Art Wing Conspiracy recently plastered on the former Bernie Sanders headquarters in Los Angeles, showing Trump’s silhouette inside of the Apple logo.
The Pittsburgh-based Godesky Brothers had recast playing cards with Trump mouthpieces like Alex Jones, Tila Tequila, Ben Garrison, Stefan Molyneux, Chuck Johnson and Mike Cernovich.
Victor Smith, co-founder of Regated, a Breitbart-esque news site, described the exhibit as “a nice breath of fresh air.” On display next to him was one of the “Emotional First Aid Kits” that James O’Keefe got University of Houston faculty members to help create for students who might feel “triggered” by “microaggressions” such as Milo’s recent campus appearance there.
A photo posted by mykl3000 (@mykl3000) on
The prank, documented in an undercover video published last month by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, was an “attempt to shock people, because on campuses nothing is ironic anymore,” O’Keefe said.
If the goal of #DaddyWillSaveUs was to rattle people, its mission was accomplished on some level. “The ‘Feminism is Cancer’ movement that Milo is trying to promote, the second I got wind of that I was definitely disturbed,” said O’Reilly, who claimed that she had only seen one work of art—“one of Lucian’s photos, which appeared like a satire more than anything”— when she agreed to take on the show. “I thought if it had been Lucian’s work alone, I would have had a much different opinion and feeling of the overall experience, but I thought the pig’s blood spraying on people and getting on reporters was just so aggressive and disrespectful and distasteful.”
Wintrich was agitated for other reasons. During the opening, there was one “jackass going around the gallery vandalizing the art with Nazi imagery,” he said. “Liberals love using Nazi imagery.”
The way Wintrich sees it, “The left loves fragmenting societies, different groups of people and putting them in categories, which is terrible for building the country. If you tell every group of people that they need to resent another group of people, there’s no cohesion or nationalism.”
His thinking reflected that of the Proud Boys, the group created by conservative firebrand Gavin McInnes. “Our motto is that, we’re Western Chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” McInnes told us when we profiled the group.
Wintrich, who describes himself as a “Goldwater Republican,” sees Trump as a “direct threat and confrontation to the narrative that the regressive left is using, while Hillary completely caters to that. Culturally it’s the lowest common denominator of discourse and thought, when you say, ‘Oh, you’re black or you’re gay so you’re oppressed.’ Or, ‘You’re a woman so you will never make as much money as a man.’ I think all that is bullshit.”
It’s easy to see why Trump, for people who can stomach his politics, might epitomize the anti-establishment rhetoric of punk culture. “If you want to annoy somebody, if you want to piss your parents off, if you want to be ejected from polite society…” Milo preached, “There is no better way to do it than to cast a vote to Donald Trump.”
As for the pig’s blood, O’Reilly said she made sure the #DaddyWillSaveUs folks cleaned up their mess.