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Prank Alert: Whitney “Press Release” Turns Museum over to Demonstrators UPDATED

From the 2012 Whitney Biennial: LaToya Ruby Frazier, “Corporate Exploitation and Economic Inequality!,” 2011.
© LaToya Ruby Frazier; courtesy the artist
Photograph by Abigail DeVille

They had me for a moment.

Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg and I had shared a very early period of our careers working in the Union Square office of the Art Workers News, an artists’ rights newspaper. So I recognized the rhetoric and spirit of the press release that hit my inbox at 8:35 this morning, and I thought for a split second that Weinberg had hit his head, forgotten who and where he is now, and reverted to an earlier place and time.

The phony, elaborately composed Whitney “press release,” which used the above image that also appears on the Whitney’s current (real) homepage, stated:

The Museum expects to reopen on May 2 a wholly changed institution….The Museum has…appointed an officer to begin vetting each of its sponsors as part of an ongoing restructuring to respond to the needs of the public it serves, instead of the private interests of a small minority who possess a vast majority of the nation’s wealth. The Museum will also soon increase the representation of artists, art workers, and low- and middle-income patrons on its board…

…and so on.

Aside from the did-they-really-say-that improbability of this, the manifesto claimed that the museum would “close its doors on May 1, so that artists, museum workers, and patrons will be able to join the ‘day without the 99%’ and general strike planned for May Day.”

As it happens, the museum would be closed on May 1 anyway: It’s a Tuesday.

So does this signal that another “Occupy Museums” action is in the offing during the spring demonstration season? Time will tell. (I have a query in to Occupy Museums, asking if it was behind the Whitney prank.) Christian Viveros-Fauné reports on the Art Newspaper‘s website that Occupy Museums does plan to demonstrate at the upcoming Frieze Art Fair on Randall’s Island.

But I suspect we won’t see the Whitney’s fourth floor being voluntarily repurposed any time soon as a space “where public, nonhierarchical, radically democratic groups can freely gather.”

Power to the Curators!

And in genuine Whitney news: The museum last Tuesday announced that has just received a $1.5-million grant from the
Henry Luce Foundation to support the installation of works from its permanent
collection in the Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Downtown, “projected to open in 2015.”

Wait a minute! “Projected”? Not “scheduled”?

UPDATE: On its Twitter feed, Occupy Wall Street’s Arts and Labor group has essentially taken responsibility for the Whitney hoax and even posted an online link to the bogus press release. As you will see, the spoof site closely mimics the real one, even to the point of linking to the genuine Whitney website.

The museum seems to have decided not to dignify this prank with any response on either its website or its Twitter feed. And it also hasn’t yet dignified CultureGrrl with a response to my request for comment on this “occupation” of its online identity.

an ArtsJournal blog