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  • Feb 26, 2019

Whitney Biennial 2019 Artist List Announced—Minus Michael Rakowitz

*Last updated March 1, 2019.

The 79th Whitney Biennial will feature 75 artists. Originally one of the participants, MICHAEL RAKOWITZ withdrew from the exhibition on December 18, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.

On February 25, the Whitney Museum of American Art released the full list of artists participating in the 79th edition of the Whitney Biennial. Co-curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley of the Museum, the biennial will feature a total of 75 artists—including Christine Sun Kim and Korakrit Arunanondchai—who will, in Panetta’s words, grapple with “questions about race, gender, financial inequality, gentrification, the vulnerability of the body.” On the same day of the announcement, it was revealed in a New York Times article that one of the participants, Iraqi-American multidisciplinary artist Michael Rakowitz, had removed himself from the biennial.

Rakowitz had in fact withdrawn from the exhibition on December 18, 2018, via an official letter. This was due to ongoing protests over the role of the Whitney’s vice chair of the board, Warren Kanders, in the violent oppression of Central American migrants attempting to breach the United States border on November 25, 2018. Kanders is the chief executive and chairperson of Safariland, a manufacturer of military equipment, including tear gas, that is used by US law enforcement. In December, artist-activist collective Decolonize This Place staged a protest at the Whitney to call for the organization’s accountability with regards to colonization, erasure and systemic oppression, and attempted to purge the space of poisonous energy by burning sage in the lobby. On February 26, they announced their plan to further their efforts with “Nine Weeks of Art and Action,” from March 22 to the opening of the Whitney Biennial on May 17. Research-based art collective Forensic Architecture, one of the participants in the Biennial, responded to the furor via Twitter on February 27, stating: "In light of recent reporting by @hyperallergic & protests by @decolonize_this & others, our invitation to the 2019 #WhitneyBiennial has become a challenge which unites the political & cultural dimensions of our practice. We will respond through our contribution."

In an interview with the New York Times, Rakowitz—whose practice is typically concerned with the archiving and visibility of looted or destroyed objects, narratives and marginalized figures—explained his decision to withdraw from the event: “I felt like I’d be betraying everything that I’ve ever cared about in the work that I make.” The co-curators of the exhibition responded in an interview on February 24 that they respect and regret Rakowitz’s decision to withdraw. 

The Whitney Biennial was launched by the museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, in 1932 and has been, traditionally, a divisive event that tends to exacerbate racial and political tensions in the US. The 78th edition drew ire from the public with a painting by white artist Dana Schutz that depicts the open casket funeral of 14-year-old African-American Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955. The 79th biennial will feature the youngest group of artists in the history of the event, with 75 percent of the participants under the age of 40. 

The full list of participating artists is below: 

Eddie Arroyo (USA)

Korakrit Arunanondchai (Thailand/USA)

Olga Balema (Ukraine/USA)

Morgan Bassichis (USA)

Blitz Bazawule (Ghana/USA)

Alexandra Bell (USA)

Brian Belott (USA)

Meriem Bennani (Morocco/USA)

Robert Bittenbender (USA)

Lucas Blalock (USA)

Garrett Bradley (USA)

Milano Chow (USA) 

Colectivo Los Ingrávidos (Mexico)

Thirza Cuthand (Canada)

John Edmonds (USA)

Nicole Eisenman (France/USA)

Janiva Ellis (USA)

Kota Ezawa (Germany/USA)

Brendan Fernandes (Kenya/USA)

FIERCE and Paper Tiger Television (USA)

Marcus Fischer (USA)

Forensic Architecture (UK)

Ellie Ga (USA/Sweden)

Nicholas Galanin (USA)

Sofía Gallisá Muriente (Puerto Rico)

Jeffrey Gibson  (USA)

Todd Gray (USA, Ghana)

Sam Green (USA)

Barbara Hammer (USA)

Ilana Harris-Babou (USA)

Matthew Angelo Harrison (USA)

Curran Hatleberg (USA)

Madeline Hollander (USA)

Iman Issa (Egypt/USA)

Tomashi Jackson (USA)

Steffani Jemison (USA) 

Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil, and Jackson Polys (USA)

Christine Sun Kim (USA/Germany)

Josh Kline (USA)

Autumn Knight (USA)

Carolyn Lazard (USA)

Maia Ruth Lee (South Korea/USA)

Simone Leigh (USA)

Daniel Lind-Ramos (Puerto Rico)

James Luna (USA)

Eric N. Mack (USA)

Calvin Marcus (USA)

Tiona Nekkia McClodden (USA)

Troy Michie (USA)

Joe Minter (USA)

Keegan Monaghan (USA)

Caroline Monnet (Canada)

Darius Clark Monroe (USA)

Ragen Moss (USA)

Sahra Motalebi (USA)

Marlon Mullen (USA)

Jeanette Mundt (USA)

Wangechi Mutu (Kenya)

Las Nietas de Nonó (Puerto Rico)

Jenn Nkiru (UK)

Laura Ortman (USA)

Jennifer Packer (USA)

nibia pastrana santiago (Puerto Rico)

Elle Pérez (USA)

Pat Phillips (UK/USA)

Gala Porras-Kim (Colombia/USA)

Walter Price (USA)

Carissa Rodriguez (USA)

Paul Mpagi Sepuya (USA)

Heji Shin (South Korea/USA)

Diane Simpson (USA)

Martine Syms (USA)

Kyle Thurman (USA)

Mariana Valencia (USA)

Agustina Woodgate (Argentina/USA/Netherlands)

Pamela Wong is the assistant editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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