Last November when U.S. agents used tear gas against migrants at the US-Mexico border, Warren B. Kanders’ name was back in the news. Kanders is the Vice Chairman of the Whitney Museum of Art and is also the owner of Safariland, a defense manufacturer who supplied the tear gas used at the border (and at Standing Rock, Ferguson, and more – to be specific, in instances of protest and action by indigenous, black, and people of color). Although Kanders’ connection to Safariland had made news before, the incident at the border brought new attention to Kanders and to the Whitney. Over 100 Whitney employees signed a letter petitioning to remove Kanders from the museum’s board of trustees. It took a few days, but the Whitney’s president, Adam Weinberg, finally responded. In short, the letter was a lot of nothing, it called for unity instead of division and, ultimately, acceptance of Kanders’ presence on the museum board. In early December @decolonizethisplace and other activists groups organized action at the Whitney to express their solidarity with Whitney employees and to demand the removal of Kanders.
The Whitney has yet to respond and so Decolonize This Place, Chinatown Art Brigade, and Workers Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) are co-hosting a town hall assembly this Saturday, January 26th inviting all interested to join the conversation about how to move forward with the Whitney situation, especially as the 2019 Whitney Biennial is scheduled to open May 27th. Although conversation is centered around the Whitney, the ideas expressed and explored will be relevant to museums and cultural institutions nationally and internationally.