A study published last year found white-collar criminal prosecutions to be at a 20-year low in the United States. Meanwhile, mass incarceration is at an all-time high, with the United States having the highest percentage of prisoners worldwide.
Artists Jeff Greenspan and Andrew Tider (you may remember them from the Edward Snowden statue they erected in Fort Greene Park) commissioned portraits of people they thought should be behind bars for their new CAPTURED project. They asked inmates whose crimes ranged from retail theft to murder to draw and paint heads of large corporations associated with human rights abuse, environmental degradation, conspiracy, murder and fraud.
The duo found the inmate-artists online through Ebay and Facebook, choosing skilled ones who specialized in portraiture, often getting work through their families. The inmates were chosen not just for their talent, but for their particular crimes, as the crimes of the artists correlate with the crimes of the corporate heads they rendered. The artists were given background information on their chosen CEOs and compensated for their work. For each of the twenty-nine portraits, a side-by-side chart compares the crimes of both the artist and the CEOs.
Former CEO of Dupont Ellen J. Kullman, by James Vidales
CEO of Pfizer Ian Read, by Joseph Sharrow
CEO & Chairman of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein, by Ryan Gragg
Chairman of the Nestle Group Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, by Charles Listo Vera
With these portraits, CAPTURED puts a face to corporate criminality, dispelling the idea that corporations are inanimate entities immune from the law. While legally corporations enjoy many of the same rights as citizens, individuals within the corporation are often not held liable.
On their website, Greenspan and Tider state:
“Corporations frequently commit crimes any average person would be imprisoned for. These corporate crimes devastate our environment, economy and society, yet the companies committing them often get away with only paying a settlement. These payouts do little damage to a corporation’s bottom line and are practically baked into their budgets. The cost of doing business. Captured shines a light on these crimes masquerading as commerce. Through the use of art made by people in prison, this project imagines the highest levels of corporate leadership being personally responsible for their companies’ illegal actions.
Money, power and political influence allow these companies, and their leaders, to not just break the rules, but make the rules. They are “untouchable.” On the opposite end of society’s spectrum lies another “untouchable”-the incarcerated- who even after paying their debts to society are often treated as unworthy. The artistry displayed within this project may help viewers see the incarcerated as more than one-dimensional criminals and remind them a prisoner is also a person. They may also remind us a corporation is not a person. A corporation has no conscience. It cannot repent or truly pay for its crimes.”