Brian Whiteley says it was on display for a month, but the hotel asserts that it never happened
For a month, a portrait of Vladimir Putin was hung in a Trump International Hotel suite and nobody noticed – apparently. Artist Brian Whiteley claims he hung the painting of the Russian president in the hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is a 15-minute walk from the White House.
Whiteley said he had originally hung the work in room 435, on August 1 2018. However, the hotel says this is untrue. The director of sales and marketing, Patricia Tang told Hyperallergic: “It never happened”.
The artist said he had returned to the hotel earlier this month, telling employees he had forgotten something in the room. Whiteley claims: “They allowed me access, and I was able to retrieve my painting, but was forcibly removed once the manager saw what I was retrieving.”
Whiteley displayed the work in the hotel’s elaborate lodging as a commentary on Trump’s “cult of authoritarianism” surrounding his supporters and allies. In the large painting Putin sits on a chair, wearing Trump’s red tie and behind him is the White House. The Painting is engulfed with shadow and a stormy sky gathers behind the Russian President and The White House.
In an email to Hyperallergic, the artist stated: “Numerous guests had stayed there since I placed the painting and no one had an issue with a painting of Vladimir Putin (with the White House in the background) hanging up in the President’s Hotel… steps from the White House. This all leads me to believe that the guests are completely devoted to the President no matter what policy/authoritarian he embraces. As many have said, Trump has brought about a cult of authoritarianism where he can do no wrong no matter how blatant the transgression.”
A friend of Whiteley, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the artist had even invited a group of drunk Trump supporters back to the hotel room where the portrait was hanging. To the source’s surprise “One of them even said ‘Putin, fuck yeah’, I was blown away”.
Whiteley and his friend had allegedly booked the hotel room for one night to display the painting, they went out drinking later that evening and invited the supporters back for a nightcap.
The artist commonly uses his artwork to comment on Trump and politics. Whiteley says his work is “designed to portray larger, more complex and abstract ideas festering in the public conscious about the Trump administration. Ideas that are generally known but are lacking the ‘proof’ — that is what I have been trying to supply.”
In March 2016 Whiteley’s “Legacy Stone”, a tombstone that bore the name “Trump, Donald J.” with the epitaph “Made America Hate Again”, was placed in Central Park on Easter Sunday. It was removed three hours later by the NYPD, but the work had already become an online hit.