Leading up to Election Day (November 8), The Wolfsonian–Florida International University is presenting three months of election-themed programming centered around Thoughts on Democracy: Freedom to Vote 2016, a collaboration with contemporary designers Mirko Ilić, Oliver Munday, Paul Sahre, and Bonnie Siegler to create a graphic response to the 2016 presidential race. Using “Freedom to Vote” as a springboard, the four artists will design original posters inspired by some of the chaos and obstacles inherent in the American voting process, regardless of party affiliation or political beliefs. Thoughts on Democracy: Freedom to Vote 2016 follows the success of Thoughts on Democracy (2008)—an installation that featured original work by sixty contemporary artists—eight years and one two-term president later.
The final designs will be on view for free from late August through November 8 in the museum’s iconic lobby, and also reproduced large-scale at Aventura Mall in partnership with Turnberry for the Arts, post-Labor Day through the election on the lower level adjacent to Center Court. Like their 2008 counterparts, the 2016 posters are based on Norman Rockwell’s Second World War-era Four Freedoms paintings, personifying the “four essential human freedoms” from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 speech: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Reimagined through the lens of today’s political circus, the new versions are:
Freedom to Vote (and make it count), by Mirko Ilić
Freedom to Vote (and not require ID), by Oliver Munday
Freedom to Vote (for the candidate of your choice), by Paul Sahre
Freedom to Vote (and not wait in a line), by Bonnie Siegler
Reproductions of the Rockwell posters gifted to The Wolfsonian by Leonard A. Lauder will be displayed alongside the four 2016 iterations.
“The only way to insure President Roosevelt’s ‘Four Freedoms’ today is through our Freedom to Vote,” stated designer and author Steven Heller, who is curating Thoughts on Democracy: Freedom to Vote 2016 along with co-curators Ian Rand, Wolfsonian marketing director, and Meg Floryan, communications manager. “Without exercising our responsibility, everything is in jeopardy. As Norman Rockwell’s posters reminded us of these ‘Four Freedoms,’ our designers remind us that the fifth holds everything together.”
“Thoughts on Democracy is an important collaboration that we are proud to showcase to our local and international visitors,” said Jackie Soffer, co-chairman and CEO of Turnberry Associates, owner and manager of Aventura Mall. “It’s another example of Turnberry for the Arts’ promise to share world-class contemporary art with the community.”
Added Tim Rodgers, Wolfsonian director, “With propaganda as the bedrock of our collection, The Wolfsonian is uniquely equipped to tackle these issues. We’re excited to frame the politics of today in relation to the past, and create this forum for provocative conversation—the power of messaging has been, after all, part of our DNA since day one.”
In tandem with the lobby installation, the museum will echo the themes on Washington Avenue, giving a vibrant street presence to the project in the heart of South Beach. Images of the original batch of posters from Thoughts on Democracy (2008) will be exhibited in the windows of The Wolfsonian’s historic Bridge Tender House in front of its flagship building, effectively wrapping the structure in over 80 contemporary designs. In addition, projections of these images will activate the exterior of the Mediterranean Revival-style building’s north façade after sunset. Together, these displays establish an outdoor component to the installation that will be accessible to all passersby.
The Wolfsonian will also delve deeper into the history of U.S. elections and tactics of persuasion with free programming and The Politics of -Isms, a library installation drawing from the museum’s extensive collection of American political ephemera. Designed to ground today’s combative political rhetoric—with labels such as “fascist” and “socialist” used casually by candidates’ campaigns and supporters—in its historical context, these supplements will attempt to clarify what the terms actually mean and how they originally arose and functioned in decades past. Events will range from intimate, salon-style tours to town hall debates and will be added as confirmed to wolfsonian.org/calendar.
In keeping with the project’s spirit of voter empowerment, visitors will be invited to participate in museum matters large and small, significant and insignificant, through September and October. Surprise ballot questions will be unveiled as the year progresses and may touch upon curatorial, educational, and shop/café offerings—giving both Miami locals and out-of-town tourists a direct hand in guiding the future of The Wolfsonian.