The Art World Reacts to Ye’s Hateful Comments

Global entertainment studio MRC has released a statement indicating that it has scrapped its completed documentary on Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) after his latest antisemitic comments. The company, best known for producing Ozark, House of Cards, and the Ted movie series, was founded and is currently managed by Modi Wiczyk, Asif Satchu, and Scott Tenley — “a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian,” respectively.

It’s been a long October in the realm of Ye’s erratic, attention-seeking behavior. In the last three weeks, Ye has had his “White Lives Matter” t-shirts delivered to Los Angeles’s homeless population in Skid Row, made moves to purchase the conservative social media app Parler, and made a series of antisemitic comments and theories publicized on social media (on now blocked accounts), and the Drink Champs podcast interview that has since been deleted. Several companies affiliated with Ye and his projects have woken up from their daze and severed ties with the disgruntled artist at last.

MRC Entertainment’s statement this week follows related announcements by German sportswear company Adidas, Vogue, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and Balenciaga, which have all dropped the rapper after mounting pressure from consumers, celebrities, and other brands.

“Kanye is a producer and sampler of music. Last week he sampled and remixed a classic tune that has charted for over 3000 years — the lie that Jews are evil and conspire to control the world for their own gain,” MRC stated in a rather allegorical tone that made some social media users do a double-take. “This song was performed acapella in the time of the Pharaohs, Babylon and Rome, went acoustic with the Spanish Inquisition and Russia’s Pale of Settlement, and Hitler took the song electric. Kanye has now helped mainstream it in the modern era.”

Beyond the entertainment industry, Ye’s hate speech is reverberating through the visual art world as well, with artists including Zoë Buckman and Deborah Kass speaking out online.

California-based, Jewish-American artist Summer Leavitt had a lot to say about how brands and businesses should be handling Ye’s antisemitic rants, urging massive platforms to recognize that “to knowingly continue to provide that space to someone saying racist or antisemitic statements is to condone it and profit off of it.”

“Companies working with him and supporting him need to cut ties immediately. If they don’t, it’s clear what side they’re on,” Leavitt told Hyperallergic. “How many times do we need to relive history to learn what choices we should have made? We already saw what happens when you give a scam artist businessman a huge platform to spew hate from and we knew, then, too, what the consequences would be.”

Instagram users flocked to Adidas’s comments section to voice their distaste for the lack of immediate acknowledgment of Ye’s comments. (screenshots Rhea Nayyar/Hyperallergic)

While companies are hitting Ye where it hurts most, his commentary is impacting Jewish and LGBTQ+ civilians and institutions across the world.

The Holocaust Museum of Los Angeles says it has received an onslaught of antisemitic messages, spam, and even threats after extending an invite to Ye earlier in the month in an attempt to show the artist how his words were deeply harmful. (Ye publicly rejected the invite, opening the doors for the hateful responses.)

It’s clear that Ye’s words have ignited antisemitic behavior in Los Angeles and probably beyond. A number of people from the antisemitic hate group known as Goyim Defense League took to Interstate 405 to suspend banners emblazoned with “Kanye Was Right About the Jews” and “Honk if you know.” LA residents have also seen an influx of neo-Nazi-aligned leaflets on doorsteps as well as antisemitic hate speech plastered on billboards.

Though brands and companies are right to drop Ye after his comments, Emily Drew Miller, a Jewish-American artist, points to how being dropped by brands and blocked from social media is just one end of a double-edged sword that will turn Ye and his disciples to right-wing outlets like Parler where they can “freely be unhinged and invigorate neo-Nazis.”

“An inevitable unfortunate consequence of antisemitism, which is like a conspiracy theory, is that when justice is served, the antisemites use the action taken to prove their point,” Miller told Hyperallergic.

Aside from being vocal and condemning hate, Leavitt reminds us to reinforce community bonds in the face of intolerance and danger.

“Mutual aid, neighborly and community connection is what kept some people alive and safe in Nazi Germany,” they reiterated. “Getting to know each other, showing up for each other, asking how we can provide support and doing that supportive action, no questions asked, just because we all can recognize the need for safety, comfort, love.”

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