Last week, we made it known to the art public that the Spectra gas pipeline lies underneath the city’s newest museum. Now that we have opened the conversation, we want to expand upon why the dangerous and controversial pipeline is indeed the Whitney’s problem. We are planning an upcoming forum and invite the museum and general public to attend as partners in discussing this issue.
The Whitney’s answers to questions about the pipeline have been insufficient, and in stark contrast to those of hundreds of individuals and responsible institutions along the pipeline’s route. The Whitney’s facile response is that the pipeline “is a federal initiative, supported by the City and State, whose ongoing safety is monitored by the relevant regulators.” Shall we compare this to the Whitney’s engagement with other regulatory agencies? Does the museum place such blind trust in federal oversight when the issue concerns electronic surveillance? No, the museum adds to public consciousness on that issue by staging exhibitions on the topic — such as the upcoming one by Laura Poitras.
We stand in support of art as a necessity in the service of life, art as a social good, and art as common inheritance of the public.
Therefore, we cannot ignore when art museums allow the public good that art engenders to be misused by powerful corporations in an effort to build credibility when their activities create environmental damage and rights abuses. The sponsorship of art by the fossil fuel industry has long been a public relations ploy aimed at obtaining a social license for destructive profit-making.