The Metropolitan Museum of Art and other museums have said they would stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family associated with the maker of OxyContin, after allegations that the company deliberately concealed its addictive potential. Museums in Britain have faced pressure to cut ties with the oil company BP, which has been accused of contributing to the climate crisis. Last year, scientists, academics and curators called on Rebekah Mercer to resign from the board of the American Museum of Natural History, given her support of conservative groups that deny climate science.
Mr. Kanders, 61, joined the Whitney board in 2006, has been on the executive committee for five years, and has donated more than $10 million to the museum. He and his wife, Allison, are avid art collectors, owning work by contemporary artists like Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool, Rudolf Stingel and Ed Ruscha. Ms. Kanders was co-chairwoman of the museum’s painting and sculpture committee; she resigned simultaneously with her husband.
A graduate of Choate Rosemary Hall, the elite Connecticut boarding school, and Brown University, Mr. Kanders began working in finance doing mergers and acquisitions at Morgan Stanley. He later struck out on his own, buying up a series of eyewear stores, lens and frame manufacturers that he eventually sold in 1996.
Mr. Kanders plowed some of his profits into a company called American Body Armor. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, another business he had purchased, which made armor for vehicles, took off, and he continued investing in law enforcement and military products.
Pressure on the Whitney began last November, when more than 100 staff members signed a letter demanding that the museum respond to a report on the website Hyperallergic that linked Mr. Kanders to the tear gas fired by border protection agents into a crowd that included children. Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s director, responded in a letter: “The Whitney is first and foremost a museum. It cannot right all the ills of an unjust world, nor is that its role. Yet, I contend that the Whitney has a critical and urgent part to play in making sure that unheard and unwanted voices are recognized.”