If you’ve been
wondering lately, “What is contemporary art in the United States now?”—the
Whitney Biennial is your one-stop destination to find out. Called a “biennial
of biennials” by Whitney Museum director Adam D.
Weinberg, this year, in its 77th edition, the show is revitalized with a new
curatorial approach, and over 100 artists and collectives to boot. We offer this
guide with Biennial particulars and reasons why you need make it to the Whitney
before May 25th.
1. When? Where? How?
The Whitney Biennial takes place
March 7 through May 25th, at the Whitney Museum of American Art (945 Madison Ave, at 75th Street, New York, NY, 10021). Admission
to the Whitney grants access to the Biennial; tickets may be purchased in
person, but given the likelihood for long lines, we recommend you purchase
tickets in advance, online, here
2. What is it? Why visit?
Deeply rooted in the history of
American art, and tied to its success in the 20th century, the Whitney Biennial
is a landmark exhibition every two years, that picks out American artists to
watch, and shows them together, giving them full reign of one of New York
City’s most prominent museums. In its limited geographic scope, the Biennial is
especially valuable, given the increasingly globalized art world. In addition,
this Biennial is significant as the last one to be held at the Madison Avenue,
Marcel Breuer location, before the Whitney’s
relocation to a new home in the Meatpacking District in 2015.
For an in-depth discussion of the
Whitney Biennial’s history and significance, check out this
by our very own Matthew Israel, Director of The Art Genome
3. Who are the participating
With the Biennial’s reputation as a
career-maker for emerging artists, the opportunity to be involved is an honor,
and a stamp of approval. With 103 participants—described this way to account
for the numerous artist collectives involved in this Biennial—the Whitney
invites twice the number of artists since the 2012 edition, ranging from the
emerging to established, young to recently-deceased, and using mediums from
film to ceramics and textiles to found objects. See the full list of
4. What makes this Whitney
Unlike previous years, where a
single, holistic curatorial approach was in order, this year’s Biennial was
curated by three individuals, each one taking a floor, and selecting their own
lineup of participants. As you explore the Biennial, consider each floor a new
exhibition; we recommend starting at the top, and working your way down.
Communal areas including stairways, elevators, the sculpture court, and the
lobby were realized through collaborations between the three curators. We
introduce each curator below.
5. Who is Michelle Grabner?
An artist and professor at the
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Grabner curated the fourth floor. In
presenting her floor, Grabner admitted “I built an exhibition that I never want
to leave.” In her own “curriculum for other artists,” she focuses on three
distinct themes, “contemporary
abstract painting by women; materiality and affect theory; and art as
strategy—in other words, conceptual practices oriented toward criticality.”
Read our “Five Questions for Michelle Grabner” here
6. Who is Stuart Comer?
Chief curator of media and
performance art at MoMA, Comer took on the third floor. He explains that his
exhibition tackles the question of how to define “American,” within an
exhibition of contemporary art, and notes “As
an American who has spent much of the last thirteen years in the United Kingdom,
I have been compelled by artists whose work is as hybrid as the significant
global, environmental, and technological shifts reshaping the United States.”
Read our “Five Questions for Stuart Comer” here
7. Who is Anthony Elms?
Associate curator at ICA
Philadelphia, Elms curated the second floor. Presenting artworks that consider
space and openness, Elms describes his approach: “If the Whitney Biennial is a snapshot of
American art at this moment, and if any intimate encounter with American art at
this moment must be mediated...then Marcel Breuer’s museum building here at 945
Madison Avenue is a well-disposed mediation for capturing 24 scenes of
America.” Read our “Five Questions for Anthony Elms” here
8. Is there related
The Whitney has organized an
extensive agenda of screenings, workshops led by artists, performances, and
programming for children and teens. Most events are free with admission,
however some require an additional fee and/or a reservation. Check here
see what’s going on the day of your visit.
9. Are there tours available?
For a guided visit through the
exhibitions, free tours are available, focusing on individual floors and
happening multiple times per day. Tours meet in the galleries and no
reservations are necessary.
10. Are there off-site
A number of Biennial projects take
place outside museum walls. Tony Tasset presents Artists
, a multicolored acrylic sculpture featuring the names
of 400,000 artists, located in Hudson River Park at 17th St; invite-only
roundtable discussions will be held by Critical practices Inc.; artists Zachary
Drucker and Rhys Ernst present will usher visitors to the nearby home of
Flawless Sabrina for tarot readings; and Donelle Woolford will perform Dick’s
at The Kitchen and JACK in Brooklyn. Find more