AP Photo/John Minchillo

Protests

Art for a good cause: artists' support for Black Lives Matter

Portraits of George Floyd and other victims of police violence and racial injustice raise awareness and funds for activist groups

The Los Angeles artist and activist Nikkolas Smith, whose digital portrait of George Floyd wearing a suit has gone viral in recent days—thanks to re-posts by Michele Obama and the Black Lives Matter group—is one of a number of artists drawing awareness to pro-black and anti-racist causes via social media. Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, while three other officers also restrained him and stopped onlookers from intervening. Following international pressure, Chauvin's charge of second-degree murder has been upped to third-degree murder, while the other three officers have also been charged. Posting Floyd’s portrait on 29 May, Smith said that Chauvin's conviction “will only be a fraction of justice”, adding: “Black lives in this country are being destroyed by a virus of racism, fear, and hatred. It is up to everyone to take a stand and actively work to tear down this centuries-old pandemic. NOW.”

Other artists calling for donations to funds such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the George Floyd Memorial Fund include Andrew Dat Tran, who has painted a group of people lifting a giant knee off a man lying face first on the ground, and Jayson Atienza, who has created a portrait in honour of Floyd and "the countless Black lives senselessly lost". Addie Wagenknecht is offering to send one of her prints depicting the US protests to anyone who donates more than $200 to Black Lives Matter or other organisations dedicated to people of colour, trans people, bail funds and #vote2020. And along with posting portraits of peaceful protesters, and victims of police violence including Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who was shot by police in her home, Shirien Damra has urged her Instagram followers to donate to causes including Dream Defenders, Black Youth Project 100, Assata’s Daughters, and Law For Black Lives.

For many artists the movement is deeply personal. The Nigerian-born New York-based artist and musician Laolu Isaac Senbanjo, who created a painting of black figures with their hands up facing an onslaught of political images said: "I had to pause several times while making this, and come back to it. It’s unfortunate that in America people have to pretend like everything is okay. Everything is not okay. My feelings of frustration and hurt as a black person living in America have been one of the most profound experiences of my life." Kambui Olujimi created ink drawings if the 3rd precinct in Minneapolis burning based on video footage and included a short personal text that starts: "Being a big kid I was told incessantly, as if I didn’t hear the first forty times, how to move in the presence of police…"

Portrait of George Floyd by Nikkolas Smith
Nikkolas Smith

Posting George Floyd portrait on Instagram, Nikkolas Smith said: “Black lives in this country are being destroyed by a virus of racism, fear, and hatred. It is up to everyone to take a stand and actively work to tear down this centuries-old pandemic. NOW.”

A print by Addie Wagenknecht based on a photo of the protests
Addie Wagenknecht

Addie Wagenknecht is offering to send one of her prints depicting the US protests to anyone who donates more than $200 to Black Lives Matter or other organisations dedicated to people of colour, trans people, bail funds and #vote2020

"Justice for Breonna" by Shirien Damra
Shirien Damra

As well as posting portraits of peaceful protestors and victims of police violence including Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who was shot by police in her home, Shirien Damra has urged her Instagram followers to donate to causes including Dream Defenders, Black Youth Project 100, Assata’s Daughters, and Law For Black Lives

Andrew Dat Tran's "Minneapolis 2020"
Andrew Dat Tran

Artists calling for donations to funds such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the George Floyd Memorial Fund include Andrew Dat Tran, who painted "Minneapolis 2020" depicting a group of people lifting a giant knee off a man lying face first on the ground

Artist Theo Ponchaveli wears a mask he created that reads, "Runwithmaud", as he poses for a photo in front of a mural he painted in the likeness of Ahmaud Arbery in Dallas, Friday, May 8, 2020.
Tony Gutierrez/AP

Artist Theo Ponchaveli wears a mask he created that reads, "Runwithmaud", as he poses for a photo in front of a mural he painted in the likeness of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed black man who was shot by white assailants while he was jogging near his neighbourhood

Jayson Atienza's portrait in honour of George Floyd "and the countless Black lives senselessly lost"
Jayson Atienza

Jayson Atienza's portrait in honour of George Floyd "and the countless Black lives senselessly lost"

The Nigerian-born New York-based artist and musician Laolu Isaac Senbanjo, who created a painting of black figures with their hands up facing an onslaught of political images said: "I had to pause several times while making this, and come back to it. It’s unfortunate that in America people have to pretend like everything is okay. Everything is not okay. My feelings of frustration and hurt as a black person living in America have been one of the most profound experiences of my life."

The Nigerian-born New York-based artist and musician Laolu Isaac Senbanjo, who created a painting of black figures with their hands up facing an onslaught of political images said: "I had to pause several times while making this, and come back to it. It’s unfortunate that in America people have to pretend like everything is okay. Everything is not okay. My feelings of frustration and hurt as a black person living in America have been one of the most profound experiences of my life."

Kambui Olujimi created ink drawings if the 3rd precinct in Minneapolis burning based on video footage and included a short personal text that starts: "Being a big kid I was told incessantly, as if I didn’t hear the first forty times, how to move in the presence of police…"

Kambui Olujimi created ink drawings if the 3rd precinct in Minneapolis burning based on video footage and included a short personal text that starts: "Being a big kid I was told incessantly, as if I didn’t hear the first forty times, how to move in the presence of police…"