In an open letter published today by Hyperallergic, nearly 100 staff members at the Whitney Museum in New York spoke out against the vice chair of the institution’s board, Warren B. Kanders. A previous report published by Hyperallergic this week revealed that, in 2012, Kanders bought the company Safariland, whose logos were recently found on tear gas canisters used against asylum seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“To remain silent is to be complicit,” the letter, which was circulated internally at the museum, reads. The letter’s signees demand that the museum consider asking for the resignation of Kanders, who was a “significant contributor” to the Whitney’s current Andy Warhol retrospective. Other demands include a forum hosted by the museum, a statement from leadership, and clearer policies regarding Whitney trustees. Curators Marcela Guerrero, Chrissie Iles, and Rujeko Hockley were among the signees.
Their letter reads, in part:
For the Whitney not to acknowledge that this news may impact its staff is to assume we are separate from the issue, that it is happening somewhere else to some other people. Many of us feel the violence inflicted upon the refugees—and against mostly-POC protesters in Ferguson, and mostly-Indigenous protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline, just two of many other instances of militarized tear gassing of unarmed citizens—much more personally than it seems to affect leadership. For many of us, the communities at the border, in Ferguson, in the Dakotas, are our communities. We read the Hyperallergic article and felt not annoyed, not intellectually upset—we felt sick to our stomachs, we shed tears, we felt unsafe.
The Whitney Museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The full letter, along with the complete list of signees, can be found on Hyperallergic.