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Home / Entertainment / Warren Kanders Retires from the Whitney Museum Board of Directors after Months of Controversy and Protest [UPDATED]

Warren Kanders Retires from the Whitney Museum Board of Directors after Months of Controversy and Protest [UPDATED]



Warren Kanders and Allison Kanders at the First Whitney Collection Award 2016 (Photo by Patrick McMullan / PMC © Patrick McMullan)

After months The protest turns into a biennial boycott and the charge of war crimes. Warren Kanders has resigned as Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

"The targeted campaign of attacks against me and my company that led them Over the past few months, Whitney's important work threatened to undermine it," Kanders said in his letter of resignation to the Board, according to the New York Times . "I joined this body to make the museum a success. I do not want to play a role, as unintentionally. "

Last year, Hyperallergic pinpointed the story of Kanders, which linked Whitney to weaponry. Today's former vice president owns Safariland, a company that produces military goods such as tear gas, which were thrown during protests against migrants on the border between the United States and Mexico and elsewhere. He also owns some of the Sierra Bullets, which the collective forensic architecture claims could be involved in Israeli army deadly war crimes against Palestinian civilians on the Gaza border.

When the news of the artist's boycott broke out last Friday, the uprising against Kander's threatened to get into the mainstream media with concentrated attention from national broadcasters like NPR and The New York Times. For months, a base coalition led by activist group Decolonize This Place held protests in the museum and other demonstrations for nine weeks to put the Kanders issue at the center of the art talk.

Kanders joined the Whitney Board in 2006 and has been a member of the Executive Committee for five years, donating more than US $ 10 million with his wife, Allison, who is also leaving the Museum's Painting and Sculpture Committee. In the museum there is a staircase named after the couple, who are also passionate art collectors of artists such as Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool and Ed Ruscha.

The protests started in November when more than 100 employees signed a letter calling on the museum to respond to the hyperallergic report linking Kanders to the US-Mexican border crisis. Museum director Adam Weinberg responded to the controversy by arguing that the Whitney "can not eliminate all the ills of an unjust world, and that its role" and that the institution "must remain a safe place for uncertain ideas."

Kanders responded in December with a separate letter to the staff. "I'm not the problem," he wrote. "We also make the non-lethal products that started this discussion, including the so-called tear gas. Non-lethal products have been developed as an alternative to deadly solutions. "At the time, the former deputy chairman's connection to Sierra Bullets was not reported by the media.

This month, Michael Rakowitz was the only artist to retreat preventively to the Whitney Biennale in 2019. Four months later, a group of critics, scholars, and artists called for Kanders' deposition – including many artists working in the Biennale presented.

Last week, four artists (Korakrit Arunanondchai, Meriem Bennani, Nicole Eisenman and Nicholas Galanin) retreated from the exhibition in a letter to Artforum requesting Whitney's work from the Biennale remove. Four others joined the on-going boycott and created a turning point for the institution, which threatened to overshadow the work of curators Rujeko Hockley, Jane Panetta and more than 60 remaining artists.

Until recently, Kander's controversy had shaken little position in the museum. He was unanimously appointed Deputy Chairman last month, according to the New York Times (19459010). However, some board members discussed his position with the museum. Some said he should have stopped for the good of the museum, while others believed that resignation would encourage demonstrators to demand more resignations from board members linked to other disgusting business investments. Name adorns the lobby of the Whitney trustee referred to above. This morning Times reported that Griffin had stepped back from the Whitney Board in Anti-Protest and bemoaned what he called the Museum's left tilt. But the CEO seems to have thought again and stays on board.

"I am a Whitney trustee and excited to be on the board," he said in a telephone interview with Thursday's release. When asked what had happened earlier that day, Mr. Griffin said, "I think the talks on the board are private. I did not resign. "

He also said," All cultural institutions in the United States should be places of open dialogue. "In 2018, the billionaire spent $ 2 million of his fortune to finance DefendArizona, a super-PAC committed to a strong military and strong borders. The committee supports Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ), who co-authored the 2018 "Securing America's Future Act". The law, which ultimately failed in the House of Representatives, would have authorized the federal government to "design, test, build" physical barriers, deploy tactical infrastructure and technology along the US-Mexico border, deploy and operate. It would also have required additional investment in the infrastructure of the ports of entry and the recruitment of 10,000 border guards and customs officials. When it was announced, critics predicted that the law would have criminalized all undocumented immigrants, separated families, removed protection for dreamer, and removed protection for asylum seekers, including vulnerable children.

Through his company, Griffin also has a stake in private prisons. Citadel is the majority shareholder of CoreCivic, a company that owns and manages private prisons and detention centers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts account for 25 percent of the company's business model. More than two-thirds of all immigration detainees are held by private detention centers such as CoreCivic and the GEO Group. In 2014, the federal government awarded CoreCivic a four-year, $ 1 billion no-bid deal to run a family prison in Dilley, Texas. Last summer, the facility housed around 2,000 people. It can accommodate 2,400 inmates and the company is fully paid even if the beds are empty. One day after Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election, CoreCivic's stock jumped 43 percent. The company later gave the management committee $ 250,000.

Ken Griffin and Anne Dias Griffin at the Whitney Museum of American Art's "American Art Award" event in 2007 (photo by Joe Schildhorn / PMC © Patrick McMullan)

The politicized and often toxic environment in which we live We are in all areas of public discourse, including the art scene, endangering the work of this body, "wrote Kanders in his letter of resignation.

The letter makes it unclear whether or not Kanders leaves the Whitney Museum to the best of his knowledge. He writes: "I hope you take the responsibility that gives you your position, and find the direction to uphold the integrity of this museum."

In a statement sent to Hyperallergic, Whitney Director Adam D. Weinberg Kander's Resignation:

Warren and Allison Kanders work tirelessly for this institution, including a generous gift of lead for the museum's construction project. Whitney's groundbreaking Warhol exhibition and past exhibitions including Laura Owens, Jeff Koons and Wade Guyton were made possible thanks in part to their support. As a director, I am very grateful.

In the same statement, Board Warren and Allison Kanders expressed their "deep appreciation for their extraordinary generosity and their deep appreciation for their commitment to the Whitney Museum of American Art and its part in securing the long-term future of the museum.

Update Jul 25, 19 2:22 pm : This article has been updated to include statements by Adam D Weinberg and the Whitney Board of Trustees.


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