Gran Fury: Art as a Weapon in the Fight Against AIDS
Gran Fury was not just an artist collective; it was a force of activism. Born from the ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) movement in 1987, Gran Fury used art as a tool to raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic, challenge government inaction, and combat the stigma associated with the disease.
Origins and Members
Gran Fury was named after the Plymouth Gran Fury, the model of car used by the New York City Police Department. The collective consisted of various members over the years, including Tom Kalin, Robert Vazquez-Pacheco, Marlene McCarty, and Richard Elovich, among others.
Art and Activism
Gran Fury's art was direct, confrontational, and designed to provoke. They utilized billboards, posters, and public installations to disseminate their messages. One of their most iconic works is the "Kissing Doesn't Kill" campaign, which featured images of same-sex and interracial couples alongside the message, "Corporate greed, government inaction, and public indifference make AIDS a political crisis."
Another notable work is the "Read My Lips" poster, which showcased images of same-sex couples kissing, challenging the prevailing prejudices of the time.
While Gran Fury disbanded in 1995, their impact on art and activism remains profound. They transformed the way art could be used as a tool for political change, especially in the context of public health crises. Their works are not only a testament to their creativity but also to their unwavering commitment to social justice.
- Gran Fury Collection - New York Public Library
- The New York Times - Gran Fury: Read My Lips
- Artforum - Gran Fury Interview
- ACT UP Oral History Project
- MoMA - Gran Fury
Featured Image Credits:
Members of ACT UP protested at the FDA headquarters in 1988. A demonstrator holds a Gran Fury–designed poster: “One AIDS Death Every Half Hour.” Photo: Peter Ansin/Getty Images.