“Unknown Artists” Group Issues Video Broadside Against Whitney Biennial Participants

On the heels of the fake Web site and press release attacking the Whitney Biennial for being sponsored by Deutsche Bank and Sotheby’s and protests at the event’s opening by locked-out Sotheby’s workers, a¬†video appeared on Friday calling on artists participating in the show to withdraw in the name of social justice. It’s not exactly clear who issued the clip, but it was uploaded by something that calls itself¬†Unknown Artists, and the style is unmistakably influenced by the video missives of the amorphous collective of hacktivists known as Anonymous:

Here’s the complete text that runs with the video (we’ve put in bold what we think are the key parts):

Greetings, art world. We are the Unknown Artists.

We urge you to investigate the economic conditions of the art world.

This is the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is supposed to be an autonomous institution, free from economic and political interests.

But currently, the 2012 Whitney Biennial is being funded by many of the same financial institutions that helped cause the 2008 financial meltdown which affected hundreds of millions of people around the world. These institutions are attempting to use the museum and the artists in the exhibition as a marketing tool to better their image. Here is how it works:

By participating in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, artists are lending their cultural capital to the museum, thus helping to legitimate the Whitney Museum of American Art and make the museum appear to be relevant, up to date, and hopefully at the forefront of artistic and social issues.

In return, the museum consecrates the artists, thus legitimating them and helping their careers. In reality, the Whitney Biennial is effectively whitewashing some of the most egregious banks and institutions.

Among these is sponsor of the 2012 Whitney Biennial, Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank was the fourth-largest issuer of toxic subprime mortgage securities in the United States, but it has largely avoided a federal investigation due to its ties to the SEC. Deutsche Bank traders have been jailed for tax evasion and Deutsche Bank was sued by the City of Los Angeles for being “one of the major slumlords in the city” and evicting “the most economically vulnerable people in the city”.

Sotheby’s, listed as a major supporter of the Biennial, is currently engaging in union-busting activities. While Sotheby’s made record profits last year, they locked out their unionized art handlers in an attempt to take away their pension plans and cut worker’s hours, effectively decreasing wages by 10%.

There is a problem that exists within the art world where if one speaks truth to power, that person runs the risk of sacrificing their artistic career. To this end, we advocate the use of Unknown Artists by anyone who has any information on the influence of art by the financial elite. All that we ask is that you please leave your personal politics at the door. We are concerned solely with the co-optation of artwork by the financial elite. We would like to commend the Arts & Labor group of O W S for also criticizing the Whitney Biennial for catering to economic interests. We stand with you in solidarity!

This is a disgusting system where artists are willing to lend their cultural capital to many of the same groups that are causing the social ills they are purporting to fight against. We, the Unknown Artists, urge the artists of the 2012 Whitney Biennial to withdraw in protest and to stand with the 99% against these too big to fail banks, instead of working with them to whitewash their crimes.

If you are an artist in the 2012 Biennial watching this, and you refuse to withdraw and continue to act as a publicity tool for these institutions, you must do it with open eyes. Do not make excuses, many people choose fame or the advancement of their careers over broader social concerns. Just know that you are no different.

If you are an artist who’s work is concerned with identity politics, you must take responsibility for renting the identity of your group to these institutions so that they can seem more humanitarian. The recent naming of Goldman Sachs as the “Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality,” shows that gender equality does not contribute to economic equality, and that large institutions have in interest in co-opting identity politics for their own benefit. Artists should not willingly support this.

Don’t let your desire for recognition allow for the continuation of a broken, harmful system.

We are the Unknown Artists.
We expose economic interests.
We increase transparency.
We aim for the distribution of wealth and information.
We will not be censored.
We will not be stopped.