Did Pentagon ban on Guantánamo art create a market for it? See who owns prison art.
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Hollywood actors Ben and Casey Affleck got one each for Christmas last year. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch has four hanging in his home. The actress who played the Gossip Girl grandma wept, then bought one. Some students and teachers have acquired the artwork as well, including a former CIA analyst.
Call it blowback: A year after the Defense Department banned releases of art made by the 40 prisoners still at Guantánamo, detainee artwork that got out before the ban is emerging as a collectible with a bit of cachet.
“I find it inspiring that people in the worst moments of their lives, the darkest days, could still remember the beauty in this world and depict it in some way,” said Gail Helt, a former CIA analyst who recently purchased a piece of art from freed Yemeni detainee Abdul Malik Wahab al Rahabi.
Helt, an outspoken critic of the post-9/11 detention and interrogation policy, is now director of the Institute for Security and Intelligence Studies at King University, a Christian school in Tennessee.
She plans to show it to students in her intelligence ethics class as she talks about Guantánamo, and “what it was we did during those years, and who was detained there.” Why? “To let them come to grips with that and see their own common humanity.” Between classes, she said, it will hang in her home.
For years, Guantánamo art had a small audience. Captives gave it to their lawyers as gifts or to send to family. The prison showcased it on reporter visits.
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