The US–Mexico border wall prototypes. Photo: MAGA.

Artists Denounce Call to Preserve Trump’s Border Wall Prototypes

On February 6, a second petition to turn Donald Trump’s US–Mexico border wall prototypes into a national monument was posted by the Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel’s MAGA nonprofit, this time on the White House’s We the People platform. That same day, artists, curators, and academics voiced their outrage at the campaign in an open letter denouncing the project as xenophobic. The We the People petition aims to protect the prototypes—which cost the government $3.3 million and were completed last October—under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Büchel originally launched his campaign last December, when he created, along with his first petition, a nonprofit organization called MAGA to preserve the structures, which the artist said have “significant cultural value [and] are historical land art.” In addition to the nonprofit, named after Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, the artist set up tours of the prototypes that cost twenty-five dollars and departed from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego before stopping in Tijuana to view the structures from both the US and Mexico. Yesterday, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego clarified that it was never affiliated with Büchel’s project and was not consulted about serving as a meeting point for the artist’s tours.

In addition to criticizing the New York Times’s coverage of Büchel’s movement, the open letter against the campaign calls for a boycott of Hauser & Wirth, which has promoted Büchel’s tours on social media. Büchel, the gallery, and Michael Walker (the author of the Times article) “make blatant the failures of Contemporary Art: concerned more with spectacle and irony than critically dismantling oppressive structures that undermine the lives of the most vulnerable,” the petition reads. “We call on all art institutions to actively shift the status quo of complicity, to work against the promotion of white supremacy by joining us in repudiating these prototypes as ‘Art.’”

As of Thursday, February 8, the petition opposing Büchel’s project has garnered more than two hundred and twenty signatures, while the new petition calling for the prototypes to be national monuments has thirty-three signatures out of its goal of one hundred thousand.