Last week, a mysterious Instagram account began posting photos of Ivanka Trump looking her usual perfect self, primped, stilettoed, and precisely preened to sexy-career-girl perfection. If you were scrolling too quickly, you might have mistaken @dear_ivanka for a fan account, with over 7,5oo followers. But it was actually the first satirical social media action of Halt Action Group, a grassroots protest organization that’s appealing to Ivanka as the Trump administration’s “voice of reason.”
On its website, the Halt Action Group decries “racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and homophobia,” and condemns Trump’s proposed Muslim registry as well as the controversial appointment of Steve Bannon and nomination of Jeff Sessions.
In the first few Instagram posts, the group dropped some hints as to who was running the account. Many of the photos were swiped from Ivanka’s personal Instagram, and show the soon-to-be First Daughter inside her cream-walled Manhattan apartment, posing with the children and/or branded products she’s birthed. “Ivanka loves art,” one such post declared. Floating in the background are some abstract contemporary works of blurry origin.
In another, Ivanka is posing in an elegant gown, looking like the fancy #partybetch she was born to be, and looming behind her, pixelated and partially obscured, is another piece from her art collection. “Do you guys like my new #dacorte” the caption reads. Somehow the artist, Alex Da Corte– better known for funhouse-tinged neon room-sized installations that look like a cross between a Shining-themed Japanese love hotel and Miro paintings come to life– had caught wind of the post and thought best to chime in: “Dear @ivankatrump please get my work off of your walls. I am embarrassed to be seen with you.”
A photo posted by Halt Action Group (@dear_ivanka) on
It seemed likely that these @dear_ivanka people were somehow connected to the art world, and yesterday the suspicion was confirmed when the group organized an IRL protest outside the Puck Building in Soho, where Ivanka Trump lives with her husband Jared Kushner.
On a chilly Monday evening, the protesters– led by the Halt Action Group, which includes artist Jonathan Horowitz and curator Alison Gingeras, plus “100 other prominent people in the art world”– gathered for an old-fashion “political call to action.” They held an electric-candlelight vigil and waved around some of the best signs we’ve seen from anti-Trump protests so far. There’s this excellent photo of Marilyn Minter:
There were many more photos posted to the group’s Instagram account that show an extensive list of established Manhattan-based artists among the participants, waving placards along with everyone else. The most well-known artists and cultural figures listed in the action’s press release included Joe Bradley, Cecily Brow, Simon Castrets, Dan Colen, Stuart Coner, Alex Da Corte, Alison Gingeras, Nate Lowman, Bjarne Melgaard, Cynthia Rowley, Bill Powers, Rob Pruitt, Cindy Sherman, Spencer Sweeney, and Piotr Uklánski, among others.
When we spoke to her this afternoon, Alison Gingeras estimated that around 500 people attended the action, which started on Bowery and Lafayette and resulted in a march that culminated out front of the Trump Soho hotel. The placards might have been hilarious, but Gingeras explained that the Halt Action Group is a serious effort to organize grassroots opposition to the policies and pronouncements of intolerance and hate that were a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign.
The movement came about in the first few days after the election. Gingeras, along with Horowitz, who is a close friend and collaborator, came up with the idea “almost simultaneously,” after she reached out to some friends in response to Trump’s victory. “I had written this email to a group of friends, including Jonathan, saying ‘Let’s sit down in a room and organize, we can’t just keep talking over social media or via email. We need to be in a room together,'” she explained.
A photo posted by Halt Action Group (@dear_ivanka) on
Gingeras described Horowitz’s artwork as “deeply political,” and she harbors a similar belief in the power of art. “I’m one of those people who think that art is inherently political,” she said. “So this is just an organic outcome of practicing art, especially in a time of crisis.”
By Gingeras’s estimate, “40, maybe 50” people attended the Halt Action Group’s first meeting. “The whole inspiration of speaking to Ivanka came up through the fact that she uses the cultural capital of the art world through her social media and her own self-promotion and marketing, and we felt that was fair game to use as a leverage point to speak to her,” she explained.
While the account might have seemed like a joke at first, the demands were sincere from the outset. How far the Action Group’s message goes, however, depends on whether Ivanka’s devotion to supporting the arts means that she’s also listening to what the artists say. A couple of commenters slammed the group’s mission as naive and, worse, a distraction from the greater task of organizing in a way that meaningfully opposes Trump. That criticism might be somewhat valid, but at the same time, it rejects the notion that art can have a real impact on the way that people think, and can even influence people to reconsider their prejudices and strongly held beliefs, if not reject them altogether.
So why make an Instagram account devoted to calling out Ivanka for what Gingeras noted are her “apparent contradictions and hypocrisies” and appealing to her as if she might be a somewhat reasonable person? “Ivanka is not just the first daughter, she’s on the transition team, and she personifies this process of normalizing and whitewashing a lot of the devices and hateful things that have been employed to get him elected,” she explained. “As a self-professed feminist and an Orthodox Jew it seems unbelievable that she wouldn’t speak out against someone like Steve Bannon.”
Horowitz agreed that Ivanka might be easier to reach than if they were to directly address Donald Trump. “Ivanka is portrayed as more compassionate and rational then her father and as someone who always has his ear,” he said. “She also collects art and seems to have cultural aspirations, so she seemed like a reasonable person to start with.”
If Halt Action Group wants to write an “open letter” to Ivanka via its Instagram posts and commenters, last night was an IRL manifestation of that missions. Gingeras estimated that the protesters created well over 100 handwritten letters calling on Ivanka to heed various concerns. “I think it’s important to underline that this is just one action of many that we will be planning,” she said, adding that Halt is “actively recruiting” new members from the art world and beyond.
Clearly, Gingeras believes the campaign is an important one. “Democracy as we know it is in danger right now,” she said. “I think for a lot of younger artists this is an exciting time to realize that their agency really matters, and it matters beyond just the rarefied bubble of the New York art world, or a gallery system, or an institution.”