Bebeto Matthews / AP
More artists are telling the Whitney Museum for American Art that they are withdrawing from the biennial exhibition of contemporary art that is being held in New York.
"It was a very easy decision," says artist Nicholas Galanin, who spoke by telephone from Alaska, where he lives. Along with three other artists, he told Whitney on Friday that he wanted his multimedia work to be removed from the show.
During the weekend, Galanin and the others joined four other artists and collectives. Many in the art world expect other artists in the show to follow their example during the next week.
Artists protest against Whitney's board vice chairman, Warren B. Kanders, for his ownership of military supply companies that sell tear gas and bullets, which the artists claim have been used against migrants on the southern border of the United States and against unarmed civilians. The protesters in Gaza.
One of the pieces in the exhibition of the Biennial, a short video entitled "Triple-Chaser", presents a case against Kanders, with the help of horrific images of a Palestinian protester who was shot. It was made by a London collective called Forensic Architecture, along with Praxis Films, a company directed by filmmaker Laura Poitras.
Forensic architecture is among the artists who request that their work be removed from the Whitney Biennial.
"We could end up with a Biennial of empty rooms," says Zachary Small, senior writer at the Hyperallergic art news website. "That would be a surprising statement about who finances the culture."
The art critic Blake Gopnik, collaborator of the New York Timesdo you agree
"The artists who left the Biennial really did the best work of art in the Biennial, which is an excellent work of political art," he said, referring to the artists' desertion.
Other critics have pointed out that these artists have benefited from the exhibition and the notoriety, and that it seems very convenient that they wait to withdraw their art until after the criticisms are published. Thousands of people have seen their work and the show will close relatively soon. on September 22.
"But look, we're talking on these issues, "says Gopnik." It is to increase our awareness of the contradictions involved and the subtleties and ambiguities, and that is what art is good to do. "
(For his part, Nicholas Galanin says he was aware of Kanders' role in the museum when he accepted Whitney's invitation.) But as a Native American, he says, he felt it was important to represent a group of people who are not usually recognized on the walls. of contemporary art museums, he says he hoped the museum would overthrow Kanders if enough artists rejected him.)
Rachel Weber and her friend Coral Bourgeois, two visitors who attended the Whitney Biennial on Sunday, said that, usually, when they go to museums, it is a source of inspiration, not to reflect on how the money behind them can come from the tools of war.
"This really brought him home," Weber said, while Bourgeois accepted his agreement. "That's what the Whitney is."
In a statement, Whitney's president, Adam D. Weinberg, said that "Whitney respects the opinions of all the artists he exhibits and respects his right to express himself freely." While Whitney is saddened by this decision, of course we will comply with the artists " & # 39; request."
Until Sunday, nothing had been removed from the art and it is not clear what will happen to the artists' fees.
Nicholas Galanin says he was paid $ 1,500 for his pieces in the show. But he said that did not cover the costs of traveling to the opening from Alaska, where he lives, and then going up to New York.
Those costs, he said, the Whitney did not pay. But Galanin said he would gladly return his fees to Whitney if the museum wants him in return for delaying his work.