In February, Michael Rakowitz withdrew from the Biennial in February, before it even opened. Then on Friday, July 19, four artists, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Meriem Bennani, Nicole Eisenman, and Nicholas Galanin asking for their work to be withdrawn from the Whitney Biennial in protest of Warren Kanders remaining on the museum’s board. Three more joined a day later: Eddie Arroyo, Agustina Woodgate, and Christine Sun Kim. Then an eighth joined the recent movement, Forensic Architecture. In total, 9 artists have taken a stand in protest.
Artists are taking a stand against the unethical means of board member wealth. Marabou wants to know, will the Whitney listen?
Below is the letter Arunanondchai, Bennani, Eisenman, and Galanin wrote to Biennial curators Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta:
Dear Ru and Jane,
We respectfully ask you to withdraw our work from the Whitney Biennial for the remainder of the show. This request is intended as condemnation of Warren Kanders’ continued presence as Vice Chair of the Board. We would appreciate if you presented this letter to the Board to let them know the seriousness of the situation.
We care deeply about the Whitney. Over the years, many shows at the Museum have inspired and informed our art. We were angry when we learned of Kanders’ role as CEO of Safariland, a company that manufactures teargas and other weapons of repression. At the time, we had already accepted your invitation to participate in the Whitney Biennial and some of us were well into fabrication of major pieces for this show. We found ourselves in a difficult position: withdraw in protest or stay and abide a conflicted conscience. We decided to participate.
But the Museum’s continued failure to respond in any meaningful way to growing pressure from artists and activists has made our participation untenable. The Museum’s inertia has turned the screw, and we refuse further complicity with Kanders and his technologies of violence.
We have enormous respect for you as curators and it has been a pleasure working with you.
The Whitney Biennial runs until September 22nd. We’ll have to wait and see if other artists put pressure on the museum and if the museum will respond.
“Eight Artists Withdraw Their Work From 2019 Whitney Biennial [UPDATED],” Hyperallergic, Zachary Small, 20 July 2019.
“Eight Artists Withdraw From Whitney Biennial Over Board Member’s Ties to Tear Gas,” New York Times, Colin Moynihan, 19 July 2019.