Whitney Museum Responds to Staff Concerns Re: Vice Chair

An unsurprising, but still disappointing response from Adam Weinberg, Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Jasmine Weber just published a follow-up article on Hyperallergic that publishes in full the letter Weinberg sent to the Whitney staff in response to the letter of concern signed by more than 100 employees regarding Vice Chairman Warren B. Kanders who is the owner of Safariland, a company that provided the tear gas used on migrants at the Mexican/US border (as well as at Ferguson and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests).

Read the article:

Whitney Museum Director Pens Letter After Vice Chair’s Relationship to Weapons Manufacturer Is Publicized

In his letter, Weinberg lists all of the progressive exhibitions the Whitney has recently put on. He references the museum’s founder and quotes her granddaughter, trying to manipulate with nostalgia. Weinberg wants his staff to know that he is aware of how challenging things are currently, stating, “We truly live in difficult times. People are suffering in our city, the US and around the world: nationalism has risen to unimaginable heights; homelessness is rampant; refugee crises abound; people of color, women and LGBTQ communities feel under attack; and the environment grows more precarious. All these tragedies have understandably led to tremendous sadness and frustration, quick tempers, magnified rhetoric and generational conflict.” He calls on a collective spirit to work through this challenge and difference in opinion encouraging staff to practice the museum’s rules of “mutual respect, fairness, tolerance and freedom of expression.” In the end the response is condescending, skirts the issue, and leads to a whole lot of nothing. Weinberg doesn’t address the core concern of employees that there is a dominate corporate and military power presence on the board of trustees that *does* dictate how the museum operates.

In his letter Weinberg said, “As one director colleague describes the contemporary museum, it is ‘a safe space for unsafe ideas.’ This is the democracy of art.” Marabou asks: what if the unsafe idea is to challenge the ethics and position of the Vice Chairman of the Board and have an open conversation among museum trustees and museum staff? Is the Whitney Museum still a safe space for that type of unsafe idea?

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