An image of the Whitney Museum entrance on June 9, 2020 (photo Hakim Bishara/Hyperallergic)

Reporters Valentina Di Liscia and Hakim Bishara join me to discuss the Whitney Museum’s decision to cancel the exhibition Collective Actions: Artist Interventions In a Time of Change, which was scheduled to open on September 17.

They both reported on the story this Tuesday, and now offer their own insights into the larger questions raised by this controversy, including how museums should collect, what role should artists have in the acquisition process, and if museums are getting better or worse at dealing with issues of racial and economic equity in their collections.

This episode will get you up to speed about the fast-moving story and what it tells us about the Whitney and other contemporary museums today.

A special thanks to Tyler James Bellinger for providing his track “Champagne” for this week’s episode. You can visit Apple Music or YouTube, for more information.

Subscribe to Hyperallergic’s Art Movements on iTunes, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

3 replies on “Why Did the Whitney Museum Cancel a Political Art Exhibition?”

  1. Great story. Systemic change must also include museums. White male predominantly have exhibited, curated, archived, purchased, written about and made the art that we have seen in the museums for centuries. I didn’t realize they they have also decided why art even exists, why we make art and what constitutes art…when in reality this is something that relates to the human experience.

  2. You raised some very good questions. The one that you didn’t raise was the question of access. The Whitney leads the pack on admission fees. If the exhibition went forward as planned – on site and not virtual – it was unclear whether the artwork, created to raise funds within struggling communities, was now to be accessed for a fee that would benefit … whom? A single museum?

    For many – especially now – access to museum exhibitions is unaffordable and therefore exist outside the cultural interactions of most people. They risk irrelevancy unless access is re-structured.

  3. Great reporting and podcast. It sounds like, aside from not buying directly and contacting the artists directly, the museum should have made clear that it was an archival show not an art exhibition like An Incomplete History of Protest which they organized a while back. Museum archivists organize shows at other museums, such as MoMA, drawing from archival and library collections. The Whitney could have looked at the V&A’s Disobedient Object show where there was a blog with information about activists that produced materials included. Another problem is that artists are relegated to documentary shows and not art exhibitions. And what about the producers, do all consider themselves artists?

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