Whitehot Magazine

Pictures from a Pandemic: Bruce Helander

Bruce Helander, A Questionable Viral Identity, 2020, paper collage

Pictures From a Pandemic is a series of artist's statements during the pandemic, collected and presented by Anthony Haden-Guest.


West Palm Beach, Florida, where I live and work, has long had bragging rights to the cleanest air in the U.S. and a consequent reputation for longevity, as well as excellent health care and strong support for the visual arts. All pretty much down the drain. Our warm air might be dangerous, and the virus basically has shuttered every city from here to Miami and Key West, though West Palm is now grudgingly reopening. Short-term effects within the art world have included the closing of every museum, the disappearance of collectors, at least for the time being, and many artists have, of course, seen shows canceled; in my case, exhibitions in New Orleans, Houston and Tokyo, and a show I curated for the Coral Springs Museum of Art that was installed but never opened to the public.

The long-term effects? Much the same here as nation-wide. Some of the galleries that support local artists may not make a comeback. Artists are concerned that the economic downturn will permanently change the way we live. Contemporary art is a highly selective luxury market commodity that explodes during good times and dries up quickly on the downside. Ironically, with unemployment statistics for artists at 90%, local artists are finding it nearly impossible to receive benefits they may not qualify for, and as there is no other support system in operation our only option is to keep working in isolation, which we are used to anyway, and hope for the best that this ominous dark cloud of uncertainty will somehow, someday disappear.

Bruce Helander, an artist who focuses strongly on collage, was Provost/VP for Academic Affairs of the Rhode Island School of Design and is a former White House Fellow of the NEA. The fifty-plus institutions in which he has work include the Whitney, the Met, the Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. WM


Anthony Haden-Guest


Anthony Haden-Guest (born 2 February 1937) is a British writer, reporter, cartoonist, art critic, poet, and socialite who lives in New York City and London. He is a frequent contributor to major magazines and has had several books published including TRUE COLORS: The Real Life of the Art World and The Last Party, Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night.




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