BY Frieze News Desk in News | 26 FEB 19

2019 Whitney Biennial Names Participating Artists; Michael Rakowitz Drops Out in Protest

The Iraqi-American artist withdrew in protest over the Whitney’s vice chairman Warren B. Kanders and his links to tear gas producers

BY Frieze News Desk in News | 26 FEB 19

Whitney Museum seen from the High Line Park, 2015. Courtesy: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York’s Whitney Museum has unveiled its list of participating artists for this year’s Whitney Biennial, now in its 79th edition. The survey show of American art is scheduled to run from 17 May until 22 September, curated by Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta.

The artist list includes Wangechi Mutu, Elle Pérez, Martine Syms, Forensic Architecture, Eric N. Mack, Heji Shin, Nicole Eisenman, Barbara Hammer and Simone Leigh. Of the 75 artists and collectives taking part, 75 percent are under the age of 40. Just five have shown at a previous edition of the biennial. Panetta explained that the emphasis on youth resulted from their research ‘as we were struck by […] the ways in which so many artists we encountered are struggling and facing fewer opportunities to present their work publicly.’ You can view the full list here.

Hockley said that the biennial would centre around ‘the mining of history in order to reimagine the present or future, a profound and sustained consideration of questions of equity along financial, racial, and sexual lines, a concern with climate change, and explorations of the vulnerability of the body.’

One name missing from the list is Michael Rakowitz – the New York Times reported that the Chicago-based artist had withdrawn in protest against the Whitney’s vice chairman Warren B. Kanders who owns Safariland, producers of tear gas used by law enforcement at the US-Mexico border. Rakowitz said: ‘You wouldn’t compromise the integrity of a work on paper by showing it in unsafe conditions. You should not compromise the integrity of an artist and ask them to show with funding and permission from people that make conditions unsafe for others.’

Last month the arts activist group W.A.G.E (Working Artists and the Greater Economy) urged artists invited to show at the Whitney Biennial to withhold their work in solidarity with museum staffers protesting what they perceived to be the museum’s failure to properly address its involvement with Kanders.