Following a series of protests, Whitney Museum’s vice chairman Warren Kanders, resigned from his position stating “The targeted campaign of attacks against me and my company that has been waged these past several months has threatened to undermine the important work of the Whitney … I joined this board to help the museum prosper. I do not wish to play a role, however inadvertent, in its demise.” The chairman is owner of Safariland (a manufacture of tear gas used by US Customs and Boarder Protection Officers) and had joined the board in 2006 donating more than $10 million to the museum.
The political controversy started in December 2018 when more than 100 staffers signed a petition calling for Kanders’ to step down. The museum’s director, Adam Weinberg publicly responded, but noted ‘As members of the Whitney community, we each have our critical and complementary roles: trustees do not hire staff, select exhibitions, organize programs or make acquisitions, and staff does not appoint or remove board members.’
Michael Rakowitz was the first artist to announce his withdrawal from the 2019 Whitney Biennial in February. On July 17th 2019, Artforum ran an essay entitled “The Tear Gas Biennial” by Hannah Black, Ciarán Finlayson, and Tobi Haslett prompting Korakrit Arunanondchai, Meriem Bennani, Nicole Eisenman, and Nicholas Galanin to published a letter with declaring their intention to withdraw. Eddie Arroyo, Agustina Woodgate, and Christine Sun Kim then followed suit.
Kanders’ resignation feels like an appropriate resolution to the ongoing controversy.