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The Arts Intel Report

A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler
A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler

James Luna: Take a Picture with a Real Indian

May 21, 2020 – Aug 31, 2021
545 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011, United States

On April 2, 1991, James Luna stood in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the downtown branch at the Federal Reserve Plaza, dressed in Native American clothing. “Take a picture with a real Indian,” he shouted. Embarrassed yet amused, the audience gathered around, not quite knowing how to react. Luna, who died in 2018, described this performance piece as a mutual humiliation: by posing as a tourist attraction he was pointing up the simultaneous romanticizing and commodification of Native American culture, the way America turns his people into a tourist attraction. Almost 30 years later, this online exhibition displays photographs of that day. —E.C.

James Luna, “Take a Picture with a Real Indian,” 1991. Courtesy of Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

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