As the Whitney Biennale is just around the corner, a group of artists, critics, staff members and scholars have signed a petition demanding the removal of Warren Kanders from the position of vice chairman of the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Accountability in the Art World
Warren Kanders is the owner of Safariland, a company that manufactures defense weapons. Controversially, tear gas produced by the company was used in December 2018 by American immigration officers, following a clash at the US-Mexico border.
In his defense, Kanders wrote an open letter in 2018 explaining that the two enterprises in question are independent of one another. He said:
“While my company and the museum have distinct missions, both are important
contributors to our society. This is why I believe that the politicization of every aspect of public life, including commercial organizations and cultural institutions, is not productive or healthy.”
This is not the first time in the recent past that people have taken it upon themselves to keep the art world ‘clean’. The protests against Kanders take place in the wake of the recent ostracisation of members from the Sackler Trust, following the opioid scandal. Looking back to last year, several New York based museums refused to accept money linked to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, following the alleged assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
As museums, artists and collectors wake up and begin to ask pertinent questions about leadership and funding, we wonder what other dirt may be discovered beneath the surface.
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Through Art Market & You, Art From Us provides you with Analysis, Opinion and Factual Reports regarding the current on-goings of the Global Art Market. In this article, we explore Warren Kanders asked to leave Whitney Museum.