An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017
Aug 18, 2017–Aug 27, 2018

Through the lens of the Whitney’s collection, An Incomplete History of Protest looks at how artists from the 1940s to the present have confronted the political and social issues of their day. Whether making art as a form of activism, criticism, instruction, or inspiration, the featured artists see their work as essential to challenging established thought and creating a more equitable culture. Many have sought immediate change, such as ending the war in Vietnam or combating the AIDS crisis. Others have engaged with protest more indirectly, with the long term in mind, hoping to create new ways of imagining society and citizenship.

Since its founding in the early twentieth century, the Whitney has served as a forum for the most urgent art and ideas of the day, at times attracting protest itself. An Incomplete History of Protest, however, is by name and necessity a limited account. No exhibition can approximate the activism now happening in the streets and online, and no collection can account fully for the methodological, stylistic, and political diversity of artistic address. Instead, the exhibition offers a sequence of historical case studies focused on particular moments and themes—from questions of representation to the fight for civil rights—that remain relevant today. At the root of the exhibition is the belief that artists play a profound role in transforming their time and shaping the future.

An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017 is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection; Jennie Goldstein, assistant curator; and Rujeko Hockley, assistant curator; with David Kiehl, curator emeritus; and Margaret Kross, curatorial assistant.

Major support for An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940‒2017 is provided by The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President.

Significant support is provided by the Ford Foundation.


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Resistance and Refusal

Black and white photograph of a hand clipping a barbed wire fence.

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Strike, Boycott, Advocate: The Whitney Archives

"Hate is a sin" text written in white on a blue cross, with a red background.

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Spaces and Predicaments

Barbed wire spread across a white gallery, creating two pyramid shapes.

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Stop the War

Installation view of An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017

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No Idle Gesture

Film still of a woman's head against an orange background.

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Mourning and Militancy

Photograoh of Felix Partz on his death bed.

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Abuse of Power

A grouping of medals and trophies.

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The Usable Past

A print that says "Celebrate 40,000 Years of American Art" next to figures that look like rabbits from a cave painting.

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Artists

Richard Deagle
John Giorno
Tom Starace


Events

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Audio Guides

Black and white photograph of protesters with black rectangles covering their signs.

“I make revolutionary art to propel history forward. I’m a visual artist.”
—Dread Scott

Hear directly from artists including Dread Scott, and Senga Nengudi as they discuss their work in An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017. Listen to additional commentary from curators on selected highlights from the exhibition.


Installation Photography


Shop the Exhibition

Visit the online shop to buy Whitney catalogues, exhibition-inspired gifts, and more.

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In the News

"An Incomplete History of Protest examines how artists have become activists in order to help create a better future.” 
The Guardian

“Get To Know An Incomplete History Of Protest at the Whitney” 
NYLON

“The Whitney Museum’s latest exhibition takes a creative approach to political and social activism, and how the past can inform the present.”
WWD

“At the root of the exhibition is the belief that artists play a profound role in transforming their time and shaping the future.”
blouinartinfo


Sunrise

Sunset

A 30-second online art project:
American Artist, Looted

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