With a structure similar to terms such as pinkwashing and purplewashing, it is a portmanteau of the words ‘art’ and ‘whitewashing.’ The term was coined in the 2017 protests against gentrification in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.” (Article “Artwashing.” Wikipedia, accessed September 1, 2022)

“Artwashing describes the use of art and artists in a positive way to distract from or legitimize negative actions by an individual, organization, country, or government—especially in reference to gentrification.” (“Artwashing”)

“‘Artwash’ is a relatively new term. It seems to have first been used to critique corporate sponsorship of the arts: large companies establishing a relationship with a cultural venue with the aim of improving their reputation. BP, for example, has long sponsored the Tate galleries in London, something that has prompted much protest. A spokesperson from one such protest group, Liberate Tate, explains: ‘Artwash is the process whereby a company buys advertising space within a gallery in order to cover up a negative public image.'” (Anna Francis: “‘Artwashing’ gentrification is a problem – but vilifying the artists involved is not the answer.” The Conversation, October 15, 2017)

“Artwashing, a.k.a. toxic philanthropy, is a form of reputation-laundering achieved through association with artists and creatives, very often linked to virtuous causes or ideas. It is a big topic in an art world that’s increasingly dependent on individual donations and corporate sponsorship. This isn’t simply about state support versus private support, especially when artwashing is used by an entire country.” (Giovanna Dunmall: “Keeping the Art Houses Clean.” Damnº 82 (2022))

“The value of culture in regenerating cities has long been recognised. Sometimes this happens centrally, whether via the commissioning of high profile public artworks, or the rebranding of city areas as cultural quarters. But in many cities, culture led redevelopment occurs organically.” (Francis, ‘Artwashing’ gentrification is a problem)

“Another troubling area where artwashing is ubiquitous — which is less talked about but perhaps even more insidious — is developer-led artwashing, where artists are used to cover up the damage wrought by neoliberal housing policies on long-standing grassroots communities in big cities.” (Dunmall, Keeping the Art Houses Clean)

How was art used by the church?
How was art used by governments?
How is art used in environmental crises?
How is art used in globalized social and political crises?
How is art instrumentalised?
How is social work instrumentalised through art?

“For an artist struggling to get residencies and visibility, the lure of an exhibition, even if it’s funded by a large and corrupt organisation or regime, can be attractive. But Jamgochian is in no doubt that the art world needs to stop normalising this behaviour. ‘Artwashing plays a considerable role in the failure of people to react,’ he says. ‘When artists exhibit in a state-sponsored gallery or accept money from the state, they are implicitly endorsing it.'” (Dunmall, Keeping the Art Houses Clean)

“Our role suddenly flipped from being artists to being investigative journalists” (Ackroyd & Harvey in Dunmall, Keeping the Art Houses Clean)

By Njomza Dragusha

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