Four prominent artists have asked the Whitney Biennial’s curators to remove their work from the current show, including Korakrit Arunanondchai, Meriem Bennani, Nicole Eisenman, and Nicholas Galanin, in a letter posted on Artforum.com.
The letter, addressed to curators Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta, states:
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.
The request comes just one day after artists and writers Hannah Black, Ciarán Finlayson, and Tobi Haslett posted an essay, titled “The Tear Gas Biennial,” on Artforum.com. The text reiterated the reasons for opposition to Kanders, due to his ownership of companies that manufacture tear gas and other weapons for the police and military, including tear gas that has been used at the US border against migrants and during protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Until today, the only artist who refused to participate in the Biennial was Michael Rakowitz. Eisenman, whose sculptures in the show have consistently been spotlighted as one of its highlights, had been making anti-Kanders stickers and handing them out at events during the Biennial’s run.
“We were angry when we learned of Kanders’ role as CEO of Safariland, a company that manufactures tear gas and other weapons of repression,” the letter from Arunanondchai, Bennani, Eisenman, and Galanin states. “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.”
Neither the Whitney Museum nor any of the artists had responded to artnet News’s request for comment by publication time.
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