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Laura Ortman, My Soul Remainer, 2017.

2019 Whitney Biennial Announces Participating Artists

The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York announced today that seventy-five artists have been selected to present work in the Seventy-Ninth Whitney Biennial, which will be curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley and will run from May 17 through September 22. Nicole Eisenman, Jeffrey Gibson, Barbara Hammer, and Simone Leigh are among the participating artists.

With less than three months before the much-anticipated event, the biennial has already been pushed into the spotlight by W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy) and activist groups who are hoping to use the exhibition to pressure the institution to cut ties with its vice chairman Warren B. Kanders, the chief executive of Safariland—a defense manufacturer that supplies law enforcement with equipment ranging from body armor to tear gas.

In November 2018, an article published by Hyperallergic about Kanders and his company’s role in supplying the US border patrol with tear gas that was used against asylum seekers at the US–Mexico border sparked a public outcry. Since then, the Whitney’s staff has penned an internal letter expressing outrage at Kanders’s involvement with the museum and made several demands, including that the institution reconsider Kanders’s leadership position and the development of guidelines for selecting trustees.  

After learning of the media reports, the Chicago-based artist Michael Rakowitz withdrew from the biennial on December 18. Jillian Steinhauer of the New York Times reports that Rakowitz, who was commissioned to create new work that involved re-creating artifacts destroyed in the Iraq War, called Kanders’s support of the museum “toxic philanthropy.” Explaining his decision to decline participation to the Times, he said that if he ignored the controversy he would be “betraying everything that I’ve ever cared about in the work that I make.”

In January, W.A.G.E., a New York–based activist group, issued an invitation to all artists chosen to participate in the biennial, asking them to withhold their works in solidarity with the museum’s staff and to demand compensation for their labor. Last week, the organization extended that invitation to all artists participating in future biennials as well. “We invite you to put your exceptionality to work,” the organization’s missive reads.

Michael Rakowitz in front of “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” in Trafalgar Square. Photo: Caroline Teo.

The 2017 edition of the biennial, the first to take place in the Whitney’s new building, was also a politically charged affair. The inclusion of Dana Schutz’s Open Casket, 2017—an abstract painting that was based on a historic photograph of Emmett Till, an African American teen who was brutally murdered by a white mob in Mississippi in 1955—divided visitors to the exhibition and also prompted a fierce debate about the representation of black people in art.

For museum director Adam D. Weinberg, the biennial should be at the forefront of issues in contemporary art. “Taking the pulse of American creativity and culture, the Whitney Biennial has been finding the future of contemporary art for nearly a century, Weinberg said in a statement. “The biennial is an essential strand of the museum’s DNA, a chance to reaffirm one of the Whitney’s deepest commitments: to support the work of living artists and to engage in a cultural dialogue about what contemporary art is and why it matters.”

Curators Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, both staff members at the museum, conducted more than three hundred studio visits over the past year in order to choose the final roster of artists for the exhibition. Commenting on the upcoming edition, Panetta said: “Ru and I especially focused on emerging artists and first-time biennial participants: approximately seventy-five percent of the artists in the show are under forty, and only five have previously appeared in a Whitney Biennial. In part, this emphasis resulted from what we saw during our research across the US, as we were struck by the profound difficulties of our current moment and the ways in which so many artists we encountered are struggling and facing fewer opportunities to present their work publicly.”

Ranging from emerging to well-established individuals and collectives, the participating artists will exhibit painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, film and video, photography, performance, and sound works throughout the fifth- and sixth-floor exhibition galleries, as well as in numerous spaces both inside and outside the museum. According to the New York Times, the exhibitors will all be paid $1,500—the amount was suggested by W.A.G.E.—for their participation.

The full artist list is as follows:

Eddie Arroyo
Born 1976 in Miami, Florida
Lives in Miami, Florida

Korakrit Arunanondchai
Born 1986 in Bangkok, Thailand
Lives in New York, New York, and Bangkok, Thailand

Olga Balema
Born 1984 in Lviv, Ukraine
Lives in New York, New York

Morgan Bassichis
Born 1983 in Newton, Massachusetts
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Blitz Bazawule
Born 1982 in Accra, Ghana
Lives in New York, New York

Alexandra Bell
Born 1983 in Chicago, Illinois
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Brian Belott
Born 1973 in East Orange, New Jersey
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Meriem Bennani
Born 1988 in Rabat, Morocco
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Robert Bittenbender
Born 1987 in Washington, DC
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Lucas Blalock
Born 1978 in Asheville, North Carolina
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Garrett Bradley
Born 1986 in New York, New York
Lives in New Orleans, Louisiana

Milano Chow
Born 1987 in Los Angeles, California
Lives in Los Angeles, California

Colectivo Los Ingrávidos
Founded 2011 in Tehuacán, Mexico

Thirza Cuthand
Born 1978 in Regina, Saskatchewan
Lives in Toronto, Ontario

John Edmonds
Born 1989 in Washington, DC
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Nicole Eisenman
Born 1965 in Verdun, France
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Janiva Ellis
Born 1987 in Oakland, California
Lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Los Angeles, California

Kota Ezawa
Born 1969 in Cologne, West Germany
Lives in Oakland, California

Brendan Fernandes
Born 1979 in Nairobi, Kenya
Lives in Chicago, Illinois

FIERCE and Paper Tiger Television
FIERCE
Founded 2000 in New York, New York
Paper Tiger Television
Founded 1981 in New York, New York

Marcus Fischer
Born 1977 in Torrance, California
Lives in Portland, Oregon

Forensic Architecture
Founded 2010 in London, United Kingdom

Ellie Ga
Born 1976 in New York, New York
Lives in Stockholm, Sweden

Nicholas Galanin
Born 1979 in Sitka, Alaska
Lives in Sitka, Alaska

Sofía Gallisá Muriente
Born 1986 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Jeffrey Gibson
Born 1972 in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Lives in Germantown, New York

Todd Gray
Born 1954 in Los Angeles, California
Lives in Los Angeles, California, and Akwidaa, Ghana

Sam Green
Born 1966 in Detroit, Michigan
Lives in New York, New York

Barbara Hammer
Born 1939 in Los Angeles, California
Lives in New York, New York

Ilana Harris-Babou
Born 1991 in Brooklyn, New York
Lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and Brooklyn, New York

Matthew Angelo Harrison
Born 1989 in Detroit, Michigan
Lives in Detroit, Michigan

Curran Hatleberg
Born 1982 in Washington, DC
Lives in Baltimore, Maryland

Madeline Hollander
Born 1986 in Los Angeles, California
Lives in New York, New York

Iman Issa
Born 1979 in Cairo, Egypt
Lives in Berlin, Germany, and New York, New York

Tomashi Jackson
Born 1980 in Houston, Texas
Lives in New York, New York, and Cambridge, Massachusetts

Steffani Jemison
Born 1981 in Berkeley, California
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Adam Khalil
Born 1988 in Nyack, New York
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Zack Khalil
Born 1991 in Newton, Massachusetts
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Jackson Polys
Born 1976 in Ketchikan, Alaska
Lives in New York, New York

Christine Sun Kim
Born 1980 in Orange County, California
Lives in Berlin, Germany

Josh Kline
Born 1979 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Autumn Knight
Born 1980 in Houston, Texas
Lives in New York, New York

Carolyn Lazard
Born 1987 in Upland, California
Lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Maia Ruth Lee
Born 1983 in Busan, South Korea
Lives in New York, New York

Simone Leigh
Born 1967 in Chicago, Illinois
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Daniel Lind-Ramos
Born 1953 in Loíza, Puerto Rico
Lives in Loíza, Puerto Rico

James Luna
Born 1950 in Orange, California
Died 2018

Eric N. Mack
Born 1987 in Columbia, Maryland
Lives in New York, New York

Calvin Marcus
Born 1988 in San Francisco, California
Lives in Los Angeles, California

Tiona Nekkia McClodden
Born 1981 in Blytheville, Arkansas
Lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Troy Michie
Born 1985 in El Paso, Texas
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Joe Minter
Born 1943 in Birmingham, Alabama
Lives in Birmingham, Alabama

Keegan Monaghan
Born 1986 in Evanston, Illinois
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Caroline Monnet
Born 1985 in Ottawa, Ontario
Lives in Montreal, Quebec

Darius Clark Monroe
Born 1980 in Houston, Texas
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Ragen Moss
Born 1978 in New York, New York
Lives in Los Angeles, California

Sahra Motalebi
Born 1979 in Birmingham, Alabama
Lives in New York, New York, and Delaware County, New York

Marlon Mullen
Born 1963 in Richmond, California
Lives in Rodeo, California

Jeanette Mundt
Born 1982 in Princeton, New Jersey
Lives in Somerset, New Jersey

Wangechi Mutu
Born 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya
Lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Nairobi, Kenya

Las Nietas de Nonó (Lydela Nonó and Michel Nonó)
Established 2011

Lydela Nonó
Born 1979 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Lives in Carolina, Puerto Rico

Michel Nonó
Born 1982 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Lives in Carolina, Puerto Rico

Jenn Nkiru
Born 1987 in London, United Kingdom
Lives in London, United Kingdom

Laura Ortman
Born 1973 in Whiteriver, Arizona
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Jennifer Packer
Born 1984 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Lives in New York, New York

nibia pastrana santiago
Born 1987 in Caguas, Puerto Rico
Lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Elle Pérez
Born 1989 in the Bronx, New York
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Pat Phillips
Born 1987 in Lakenheath, United Kingdom
Lives in Pineville, Louisiana

Gala Porras-Kim
Born 1984 in Bogotá, Colombia
Lives in Los Angeles, California

Walter Price
Born 1989 in Macon, Georgia
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Carissa Rodriguez
Born 1970 in New York, New York
Lives in New York, New York

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
Born 1982 in San Bernardino, California
Lives in Los Angeles, California

Heji Shin
Born 1983 in Seoul, South Korea
Lives in New York, New York

Diane Simpson
Born 1935 in Joliet, Illinois
Lives in Wilmette, Illinois

Martine Syms
Born 1988 in Los Angeles, California
Lives in Los Angeles, California

Kyle Thurman
Born 1986 in West Chester, Pennsylvania
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Mariana Valencia
Born 1984 in Chicago, Illinois
Lives in Brooklyn, New York

Agustina Woodgate
Born 1981 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Lives in Miami, Florida, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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