The Museum had come under fire for its affiliation with Kanders, who owns Safariland, a military and police equipment company that produced tear gas used against migrants along the U.S.-Mexico Border as well as other weapons and defense paraphernalia used at protest sites and battle grounds around the world.
On Friday, July 19th, in a letter
to Biennial curators Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Meriem Bennani, Nicole Eisenman, and Nicholas Galanin had requested the museum take down their works from the show which had opened in May. “The Museum’s continued failure to respond in any meaningful way to growing pressure from artists and activists has made our participation untenable,” they wrote.
The letter from the artists followed months of protests against the Whitney’s ties to Kanders and his company, including weekly protests organized by Decolonize This Place
, a letter
from Whitney staff, and the artist Michael Rakowitz
’s early withdrawal from the show in December in protest. After last week’s letter, Eddie Arroyo, Agustina Woodgate, Christine Sun Kim and the collective Forensic Architecture, also requested their works be removed in solidarity.
Thursday afternoon, the Whitney Board thanked Kanders in a public memo for his thirteen years as a trustee. Adam Weinberg, director of the museum, and Whitney president Richard DeMartini expressed gratitude for the financial and art contributions from Kanders and his wife, Allison. The board did not acknowledge the controversy or protests, some of which took place during the Biennial’s opening.