The Whitney Museum and Warren B. Kanders: Why the art controversy has sparked debate about private donations

Visual arts columnist Sean O'Neill, breaks down a recent controversy at the Whitney Museum, which has sparked a huge cultural debate about the future of private donations to museums and galleries.
The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. (Ed Lederman)

For the past few months, controversy has swirled around the Whitney Museum of American Art after troubling information came to light about the museum's vice chairman of the board, Warren B. Kanders.

The controversy started last year when about 100 staff members at the Whitney Museum published an open letter asking for Kanders' resignation. It was revealed that his company, Safariland, manufactured the tear gas that was used against unarmed migrants, including children, at the U.S.-Mexico border.

This spring, the conversation ramped up when a group of about 120 influential artists, scholars and activists signed another open letter, again, calling for Kanders' resignation.

Now, the debate has spread to museums like the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which have both accepted money from the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma — a company that manufactures pharmaceuticals that have played a role in the opioid crisis.

Our visual arts columnist Sean O'Neill, host of the CBC Arts show In the Making, joined Tom Power to break down why this controversy has sparked a huge cultural debate about the future of private donations to museums and galleries.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

— Produced by ​Cora Nijhawan

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