Michael Rakowitz explains why he turned down Whitney Biennial The Chicago-based artist has offered an explanation for why he declined to participate in the Whitney Biennial, which is due to open on 17 May and is co-organised by the museum’s curators Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley.

Rakowitz said that his refusal is an act of protest against the Whitney Museum’s vice chairman, Warren Kanders, whose company, Safariland, manufactures tear gas canisters and other military products that have been used against asylum seekers along the US-Mexico border.

Speaking to the Art Newspaper, he said: “I tried so hard to visualise my work in the biennial as a way to counter the images of tear gas canisters and the wounds they inflict at the border, or any weapon on any body anywhere. But the truth is, it can’t. For as long as Kanders remains on the board, let alone as its vice chairman, my work and the people — and the pain of displacement I address in it — can only be appropriated.”

He added that his decision was “unfortunate” and that he has “long admired” Hockley and Panetta’s work at the museum.

Rakowitz is known for making politically-engaged works, with his sculpture The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist currently on display on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth. The piece was commissioned to recreate artifacts and locations destroyed in the Iraq war.

Hockley told the New York Times that both curators respected Rakowitz’s decision and regretted that he wouldn’t be involved in the biennial’s 79th edition.

Maryland Institute College of Art apologises for racist past Samuel Hoi, president of Baltimore’s MICA, has issued a statement apologising for the college’s “historical denial of access to talented students for no other reason than the colour of their skin, and for the hardships to those who were admitted but not supported for their success”.

It came in response to a thesis project by photography student Deyane Moses titled Blackives: A Celebration of Black History at MICA. It has been featured on the Maryland Institute Black Archives website, which documents the stories of black artists who were refused entry to MICA between 1895 and 1954 due to the school’s policy of only accepting ‘reputable white pupils’.

Hoi added that MICA understands that lives “have been harmed and some wounds cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Such awareness of past and persisting injustice fuels MICA’s institutional resolve to redouble our efforts towards change”.

Hertfordshire County Council reveals plans to auction 90% of the works in its collection An initial 150 works in the council’s collection will be put up for sale next month, with it planning to dispose of at least 90% of its works long-term. The council has described it as the “sensible thing to do” in order to keep costs down for its council tax payers.

The collection, which totals 1,496 works, includes pieces by artists such as Carel Weight, Julian Trevelyan, Keith Vaughan and John Minton. The council started amassing work in the 1940s as part of the Hertfordshire Schools Art Loan Collection, which was designed to enable children across the region to access works of art.

112 works have already been accepted as gifts by Hertfordshire organisations and a further 1,074 works will be offered later this year. Works by artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Rory J Browne, Mary Hoad, and Henry Moore will be kept by the council.

However, as the Art Newspaper reports, the news has been criticised by Stephen Deuchar, the director of Art Fund. He wrote to David Williams, the council leader, last April to “highlight concerns about the proposed disposals”.

Deuchar also asked if other actions have been considered instead of shutting down the art collection, such as trying to secure revenue from external funding bodies to sustain the art programme.

In response, Terry Douris, council cabinet member for education, libraries and localism, said: “With 60% of the art collection languishing in storage and not available to the public, the county council believes that the approach it is taking to the art collection balances its fiduciary duty to its council tax payers to use the full resources available to it to best advantage, whilst aiming to achieve much improved access and display of the retained collection for the public.”

1. Michael Rakowitz with his Fourth Plinth proposal. Photo: James O Jenkins

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