THE TRUMP TOMBSTONE
The 500-pound “Legacy Stone”, covertly placed in Central Park around 4 a.m. on Easter Sunday (March 27, 2016), came into the public eye via an early-morning jogger’s Instagram post. The stone read "Made America Hate Again" and bore the name “Trump, Donald J.” in sharp letters. Though it was removed by the NYPD in fewer than three hours, the work received immediate viral media attention, followed by an extensive criminal investigation. While images of the worked rapidly circulated on social media and as police searched for the “perpetrator,” the artist remained at large for nearly two months, taunting investigators with anonymous television, print, and online interviews. With Trump’s birth year but an open-ended death date, Whiteley anonymously affirmed the work to the New York Times as not as a death threat but rather a message to Trump that at that point (April of 2016), there was still time for the candidate to alter his legacy. Eventually the Secret Service tracked down Whiteley where he was made to release his mental health records and went through an extensive interrogation, including interviews with friends and family. After the interrogation the charges were dropped to just a littering fine.
Legacy Stone was the earliest viral artworks created in response to the unprecedented nature of the 2016 Republican candidacy, and the piece has taken on expanded resonance with the election and presidency of Donald Trump. The epitaph "Made America Hate Again", still rings true.