All the Artworks on the Whitney Museum’s Website Have Been Boarded Up in a New Gesture by the Anonymous Figure Known as ‘American Artist’

The project was commissioned by the museum as part of an ongoing digital initiative.

Screenshot of American Artist's project for the Whitney, titled Looted. Courtesy of the Whitney Museum.
Screenshot of American Artist's project for the Whitney, titled Looted. Courtesy of the Whitney Museum.

At the height of the protests that erupted in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, museums across New York, including MoMA and the New Museum, boarded up their storefront windows. 

Activists were quick to point out the hypocrisy, arguing that these spaces, which are self-claimed houses of communal learning and growth, shuttered their doors to the largest social-justice movement of the 21st century.

This contradiction is laid bare on the website of the Whitney Museum—which itself was boarded up during the protests—in a new new artwork by American Artist.  

Every day at sunset, Artist—an anonymous conceptualist who legally changed their name to question the biases built into the phrase “American Artist”—will replace every image of an artwork on the Whitney Museum’s website with a picture of plywood, effectively boarding up the pages. The site’s unassuming white background will be turned black, obscuring all text in the process. 

Titled Looted, the work calls into question what is being stolen and through what means. 

The project was commissioned by the Whitney as part of the museum’s Sunrise/Sunset series of commissions, which sees artists taking over the museum’s website for 10 to 30 seconds at the beginning or end of the day for months at a time.

Previous projects included Lorna Mills’s Caughtinmoment from 2017, in which pixelated gifs of sunsets took over the webpage, and Carla Gannis’s 2018–19 project, Lady Ava Interface, which took the form of a fake artificially intelligent digital assistant that greeted viewers visiting the site.

The intersection of technology and social issues is often at the heart of Artist’s work. For one of their projects, they created a chat platform that answers questions about prison surveillance as a comment on the 2019 Protect and Serve Act, a US law that “establishes a new criminal offense for knowingly assaulting a law enforcement officer causing serious bodily injury,” according to Congress.gov.

“My art has been referenced over the last few weeks as a means of recognition,” Artist said in an interview with Artnet News last month. “And while it’s reassuring to witness a connection of dots between things I’ve said and what is happening in the world, the events that took place in order for that recognition to occur are terrible.”


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