UPDATE, July 25: Warren Kanders resigned from the Whitney Museum’s board.
As part of the Honolulu Museum of Art’s partnership with the Honolulu Biennial, Nicholas Galanin’s penetrating installation We Dreamt Deaf was on view at the museum from March to May. His taxidermy polar bear immediately drew people in, first through its incredible visual impact then by its layered cultural and environmental message.
Then in May, Galanin headed to New York for the opening of the Whitney Biennial, which includes his works White Noise Prayer Rug and Let Them Enter Dancing and Showing Their Faces: Shaman. Last week, he was one of four artists who sent a joint letter to the exhibition’s two curators, Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta, requesting that their work be withdrawn from the prestigious show. Four more artists then followed suit.
It is their reaction to the fact that Warren Kander, CEO of tear gas manufacturer Safariland, continues to serve as the museum’s board vice chair despite protests by artists, academics, critics, and even staff since last November, when Hyperallergic reported that tear gas canisters allegedly used by U.S. border agents at the U.S.-Mexico border were branded with “Safariland.”
Kander justified his remaining on the Whitney’s board in an open letter to the “Whitney community.”
Where do you stand on institutional ethics? How much responsibility should museums bear in making sure their much-needed financial support is “clean”? We would love to hear from you in the comments.