Members of Art V War, an artist and activist group, protested the Whitney Museum of American Art’s vice chairman and his ownership of a controversial defense company—which supplied the tear gas that border agents recently deployed against Central American asylum seekers—by installing an unauthorized work at the New York City museum today (December 10).
Just installed a new @ArtvWar exhibit at the Whitney Museum of Art.
It’s a entitled Mother with Daughters in Tear Gas.#WhitneyTearGas
— Rafael Shimunov 🔥 (@rafaelshimunov) December 10, 2018
An emailed statement from Art V War organizer Rafael Shimunov notes that the art draws from Kim Kyung-Hoon’s photograph of Honduras native Maria Meza and daughters Cheili and Saira running from a tear gas cannister’s fumes, as well as another of Cheili crying. The family came to the United States-Mexico border with the migrant caravan of asylum seekers in late November. Shimunov sent Colorlines the following images of each panel:
The installation also includes a piece of paper that credits the art to Warren B. Kanders, who the Whitney Museum lists online as a co-chairman of its board of trustees. Hyperallergic reported last month that Kanders also owns Safariland, a defense manufacturer that developed the tear gas canisters used against the caravan. Safariland also created Instantaneous Blast CS grenades used against Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock.
The paper points readers to a hashtag, #WhitneyTearGas, and Shimunov’s petition demanding that the museum’s board and administrative leaders denounce Kanders’ “oppression profiteering.” The petition also calls for Kanders to resign.
Art V War’s action comes mere days after two other protests against Kanders—an open letter from nearly 100 Whitney Museum employees that demands the board to answer to Kanders’ profiteering, and another protest by a multiracial activist group called Decolonize This Place on the museum grounds. ArtNews published Kanders’ response to Whitney Museum staffers. In it, he denies personal responsibility for how law enforcement entities use Safariland’s products.