Debtfair in the Whitney Biennial



Debtfair was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. In 2012, Occupy Museums launched Debtfair, an exhibition and organizing platform that groups artists and artworks by their debts and other financial realities. The system reveals the relationships binding individuals to the banks holding their loans as a hidden but highly consequential layer underneath the surface of American art. For the Whitney Biennial iteration of Debtfair, Occupy Museums announced a national call for American artists to answer questions relative to their economic realities for inclusion on debtfair. org. The open call, available in both English and Spanish, received over 500 respondents, providing a detailed glimpse of the reality of the American artist-as-debtor. One artwork from each of thirty indebted artists has been literally embedded into the interior of a wall at the museum and arranged into three “bundles” of ten artists each per bundle. All artists within a given bundle owe money to the same financial institutions. The bundles are: Puerto Rico Bundle (First Bank of Puerto Rico and/or Banco Popular and/or affected by the Puerto Rican debt crisis), Navient Bundle (student loan debt to Navient Corporation) and JPMorgan Chase Bundle (credit card, loan, and mortgage debt to JPMorgan Chase & Co.). Expanded questions relative to each bundle were asked of each artist and have been included here. All 500+ individuals who responded to the Debtfair questionnaire appear in the Whitney Museum via a digital slideshow with a work sample and text response to the question: “How does your economic reality affect your art?” Each bundle is available for sale as a collective unit and priced to provide bundled artists with $2,296.14 each (the per capita share of the $700 trillion 2008 bailout if the people of this country––rather than the banks–– had been considered as “too big to fail”) along with a dollar amount for collective action toward debt justice.



New Yorker