Jimmie Durham is one of the most important American artists working today. Since the 1970s, he has made work that is insightful, politically committed, and often quite humorous. The Whitney Museum of American Art’s relationship with Durham goes back to the 1993 Biennial and remains extremely significant to us today. We are honored to present this long-overdue retrospective, Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World, which will allow visitors to gain a deeper understanding of his expansive practice or to discover his work for the first time.
Durham’s art is complex and, at times, provocative. When this exhibition was previously presented in Los Angeles and Minneapolis, it revived longstanding debates about the artist’s identification as Cherokee. Durham does not belong to any of the three Cherokee tribes and vigorously opposes the system of tribal enrollment on political grounds. Recent discussions of these points have allowed audiences to consider vital questions about tribal sovereignty, and what it means—or does not mean—for an artist to self-identify as Native American. This exhibition does not claim to resolve these questions, but it can serve as an invaluable forum for discussion, debate, and education by bringing rich and powerfully intelligent art into dialogue with complicated ideas. Audiences can explore these issues through resources on our website, in-gallery tours, and public programs.
Our role as a museum is to present the work of compelling artists who have significant things to say and questions to ask. We feel strongly that Jimmie Durham is one such artist.
Adam D. Weinberg
Alice Pratt Brown Director