Here Are the 75 Artists Appearing in the 2019 Whitney Biennial—and the One Who Declined in Protest

Michael Rakowitz dropped out amid controversy surrounding one of the museum’s board members.

2019 Whitney Biennial curators Rujeko Hockley (left) and Jane Panetta (right). Photograph by Scott Rudd.

Controversies have been swirling around the Whitney Museum’s boardroom since last fall, almost guaranteeing that the institution’s 2019 biennial would stoke debate. But that debate arrived sooner—and rose to a higher decibel level—than expected on Monday afternoon, when the museum released the names of all 75 participating artists and collectives in the exhibition.

The news was somewhat overshadowed by the early withdrawal of celebrated cross-disciplinary artist Michael Rakowitz, who declined the museum’s invitation before the list’s official release. In an interview with the New York Times, he said that, in thinking through the idea of showing at the Whitney under the present circumstances, “I felt like I’d be betraying everything that I’ve ever cared about in the work I make.” An email to Rakowitz requesting further comment was not returned by press time.

Rakowitz’s decision comes after calls for drastic action against Warren B. Kanders, vice chair of the museum’s board. Led by Decolonize This Place, activists (including nearly 100 petition-signing Whitney staffers) began advocating for Kanders’s ouster late last year in the wake of a report by Hyperallergic highlighting his role as board chairman and owner of Safariland, the manufacturer responsible for the tear gas used by US Customs and Border Patrol against migrants who attempted to cross the Tijuana-San Diego border on November 27.

Since that time, a number of actions have been taken against the prestigious museum. Decolonize This Place and other activist groups held a joint protest in early December that included burning sage in the Whitney’s lobby, and artist Rafael Shimunov temporarily managed to install a painting based on a viral image of a mother and child assaulted by tear gas during the November border crossing attempt.

Curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, both on staff at the museum, the 2019 Whitney Biennial will feature 70 individual practitioners and another five artist collectives when it opens on May 19. Among the most renowned solo participants are the painter Nicole Eisenman, a two-time Whitney Biennial veteran and Guggenheim fellowship winner; the multimedia artist Wangechi Mutu, who recently presented a new commission at the ICA Boston; and the sculptor Simone Leigh, who won this year’s Hugo Boss Prize. The collective side of the roster is headlined by Forensic Architecture, whose work digitally reconstructing the realities of human-rights violations around the world earned it a nomination for the 2018 Turner Prize.

On the whole, the group skews young. Nearly 75 percent of the participants have yet to reach age 40, and just five have shown in a previous Whitney Biennial. The two most senior artists are Diane Simpson (age 84) and Barbara Hammer (age 80), who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The youngest artist in the group, Brooklynite Ilana Harris-Babou, celebrates her 28th birthday this year.

Women, meanwhile, hold a 38 to 32 majority within the group of individual artists. (The collective Las Nietas de Nonó consists of sisters Lydela Nonó and Michel Nonó.) The exhibition also features a panoply of geographical heritage, with artists working across North America and the rest of the world, including Puerto Rico, Mexico, Thailand, and Sweden.

In a statement, Decolonize This Place expressed respect and support for the participating artists and responded to the release of the list by writing, “We are organizing and in conversation with biennial artists on how we can pressure the museum to do the right thing, which begins with the removal of Warren Kanders. It is important to note that Warren Kanders is just the start of the crisis at the Whitney. There is no safe space for profiteers of all state violence.”

Another group important to the debate around the Whitney is Working Artists and the Greater Economy (WAGE). In line with its mission to establish equitable labor relations in arts nonprofits, WAGE publicly encouraged artists participating in the 2019 biennial to withhold their creative labor until the museum addresses staff members’ demands and financially compensates all artists for their contributions to the exhibition. According to the New York Times, all participating artists will receive the $1,500 fee suggested by WAGE. A representative of WAGE had not replied to a request for comment by press time.

The complete artist list for the 2019 Whitney Biennial can be found below, followed by the full statement from Decolonize This Place. This story will be updated as additional comments arrive.

Eddie Arroyo

Born 1976 in Miami, FL

Lives in Miami, FL

Korakrit Arunanondchai

Born 1986 in Bangkok, Thailand

Lives in New York, NY, and Bangkok, Thailand

Olga Balema

Born 1984 in Lviv, Ukraine

Lives in New York, NY

Morgan Bassichis

Born 1983 in Newton, MA

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Blitz Bazawule

Born 1982 in Accra, Ghana

Lives in New York, NY

Alexandra Bell

Born 1983 in Chicago, IL

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Brian Belott

Born 1973 in East Orange, NJ

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Meriem Bennani

Born 1988 in Rabat, Morocco

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Robert Bittenbender

Born 1987 in Washington, DC

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Lucas Blalock

Born 1978 in Asheville, NC

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Garrett Bradley

Born 1986 in New York, NY

Lives in New Orleans, LA

Milano Chow

Born 1987 in Los Angeles, CA

Lives in Los Angeles, CA

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, NY

Nicole Eisenman

Born 1965 in Verdun, France

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Janiva Ellis

Born 1987 in Oakland, CA

Lives in Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles, CA

Kota Ezawa

Born 1969 in Cologne, West Germany

Lives in Oakland, CA

Brendan Fernandes

Born 1979 in Nairobi, Kenya

Lives in Chicago, IL

FIERCE and Paper Tiger Television

FIERCE

Founded 2000 in New York, NY

Paper Tiger Television

Founded 1981 in New York, NY

Marcus Fischer

Born 1977 in Torrance, CA

Lives in Portland, OR

Forensic Architecture

Founded 2010 in London, United Kingdom

Ellie Ga

Born 1976 in New York, NY

Lives in Stockholm, Sweden

Nicholas Galanin

Born 1979 in Sitka, AK

Lives in Sitka, AK

Sofía Gallisá Muriente

Born 1986 in San Juan, PR

Lives in San Juan, PR

Jeffrey Gibson

Born 1972 in Colorado Springs, CO

Lives in Germantown, NY

Todd Gray

Born 1954 in Los Angeles, CA

Lives in Los Angeles, CA, and Akwidaa, Ghana

Sam Green

Born 1966 in Detroit, MI

Lives in New York, NY

Barbara Hammer

Born 1939 in Los Angeles, CA

Lives in New York, NY

Ilana Harris-Babou

Born 1991 in Brooklyn, NY

Lives in Williamstown, MA, and Brooklyn, NY

Matthew Angelo Harrison

Born 1989 in Detroit, MI

Lives in Detroit, MI

Curran Hatleberg

Born 1982 in Washington, DC

Lives in Baltimore, MD

Madeline Hollander

Born 1986 in Los Angeles, CA

Lives in New York, NY

Iman Issa

Born 1979 in Cairo, Egypt

Lives in Berlin, Germany, and New York, NY

Tomashi Jackson 

Born 1980 in Houston, TX

Lives in New York, NY, and Cambridge, MA

Steffani Jemison

Born 1981 in Berkeley, CA

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil, and Jackson Polys

Adam Khalil

Born 1988 in Nyack, NY

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Zack Khalil

Born 1991 in Newton, MA

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Jackson Polys

Born 1976 in Ketchikan, AK

Lives in New York, NY

Christine Sun Kim

Born 1980 in Orange County, CA

Lives in Berlin, Germany

Josh Kline

Born 1979 in Philadelphia, PA

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Autumn Knight

Born 1980 in Houston, TX

Lives in New York, NY

Carolyn Lazard

Born 1987 in Upland, CA

Lives in Philadelphia, PA

Maia Ruth Lee

Born 1983 in Busan, South Korea

Lives in New York, NY

Simone Leigh

Born 1967 in Chicago, IL

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Daniel Lind-Ramos

Born 1953 in Loíza, PR

Lives in Loíza, PR

James Luna

Born 1950 in Orange, CA

Died 2018

Eric N. Mack

Born 1987 in Columbia, MD

Lives in New York, NY

Calvin Marcus

Born 1988 in San Francisco, CA

Lives in Los Angeles, CA

Tiona Nekkia McClodden

Born 1981 in Blytheville, AR

Lives in Philadelphia, PA

Troy Michie

Born 1985 in El Paso, TX

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Joe Minter

Born 1943 in Birmingham, AL

Lives in Birmingham, AL

Keegan Monaghan

Born 1986 in Evanston, IL

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Caroline Monnet

Born 1985 in Ottawa, Ontario

Lives in Montreal, Quebec

Darius Clark Monroe

Born 1980 in Houston, TX

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Ragen Moss

Born 1978 in New York, NY

Lives in Los Angeles, CA

Sahra Motalebi

Born 1979 in Birmingham, AL

Lives in New York, NY, and Delaware County, NY

Marlon Mullen

Born 1963 in Richmond, CA

Lives in Rodeo, CA

Jeanette Mundt

Born 1982 in Princeton, NJ

Lives in Somerset, NJ

Wangechi Mutu

Born 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya

Lives in Brooklyn, NY, and Nairobi, Kenya

Las Nietas de Nonó (Lydela Nonó and Michel Nonó) 

Established 2011

Lydela Nonó

Born 1979 in San Juan, PR

Lives in Carolina, PR

Michel Nonó

Born 1982 in San Juan, PR

Lives in Carolina, PR

Jenn Nkiru

Born 1987 in London, United Kingdom

Lives in London, United Kingdom

Laura Ortman

Born 1973 in Whiteriver, AZ

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Jennifer Packer

Born 1984 in Philadelphia, PA

Lives in New York, NY

nibia pastrana santiago

Born 1987 in Caguas, PR

Lives in San Juan, PR

Elle Pérez

Born 1989 in the Bronx, NY

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Pat Phillips

Born 1987 in Lakenheath, United Kingdom

Lives in Pineville, LA

Gala Porras-Kim

Born 1984 in Bogotá, Colombia

Lives in Los Angeles, CA

Walter Price

Born 1989 in Macon, GA

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Carissa Rodriguez

Born 1970 in New York, NY

Lives in New York, NY

Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Born 1982 in San Bernardino, CA

Lives in Los Angeles, CA

Heji Shin

Born 1983 in Seoul, South Korea

Lives in New York, NY

Diane Simpson

Born 1935 in Joliet, IL

Lives in Wilmette, IL

Martine Syms

Born 1988 in Los Angeles, CA

Lives in Los Angeles, CA

Kyle Thurman

Born 1986 in West Chester, PA

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Mariana Valencia

Born 1984 in Chicago, IL

Lives in Brooklyn, NY

Agustina Woodgate

Born 1981 in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Lives in Miami, FL, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Reached for comment, Decolonize This Place sent the following statement.

We respect and appreciate the artists and curators of the biennial, along with the staff who have spoken out against Kanders. We also appreciate Michael Rakowitz’s decision to boycott the Biennial. We stand in solidarity with all artists who make a similar decision in the coming months.

We are organizing and in conversation with biennial artists on how we can pressure the museum to do the right thing, which begins with the removal of Warren Kanders.

It is important to note that Warren Kanders is just the start of the crisis at the Whitney. There is no safe space for profiteers of all state violence.

As we move forward separately and together, we seek to supplement the work in the biennial, which exhibits the work of Indigenous, Black, and Brown artists also thinking through these issues. When we take creative actions in the coming months, and apply a diversity of tactics and strategies, it will be an extension of the issues raised in this biennial beyond representation to examine the funding and structural complicity of the museum in state violence against communities of color. We will do so with respect for the participants of the biennial, the curators, and the staff of the museum.

The 2019 Whitney Biennial will open May 19.

Caroline Goldstein contributed reporting.


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