“Assembling an overview of American art these days is a fool’s errand—America is constant expansion,” wrote 43-year-old Anthony Elms, associate curator at University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art and one-third of this year’s Whitney Biennial curatorial team. Deciding to devote his floor in some part to the 1966-built Breuer building, the museum’s home only for a few more months, Elms asked a question the architect, Marcel Breuer, asked himself: “What should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan?” He looked to answer this question through the work of 24 artists and groups, from Charlemagne Palestine’s sculpture and sound installations carrying through the building’s stairwells to Charline von Heyl’s epic wall of black-and-white collaged drawings—all making up the second floor of the concrete building. We posed five questions to Elms, encompassing subjects from curatorial tools to Twitter.
Artsy: Can you describe one or two works that are the centerpiece(s) of your floor, or that anchor a theme or underpinning—visual or conceptual—in some way?
Anthony Elms: All the artists I reached out to are equally centerpieces in their own right. In that spirit, the artists not installed on my floor in a fixed manner: Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman, Miguel Gutierrez, Angie Keefer, Zoe Leonard, Taisha Paggett, and Charlemagne Palestine, need to be kept in consideration relative to the works on my floor.
Artsy: This is the last year the Whitney Biennial will take place in the Breuer building. Did this influence your selection process at all and if so, how?
AE: It is also, don’t forget, my first time working in the Breuer building. So I was inspired working in the building, as I’ve always been inspired visiting the building. Breuer’s initial notes on the building are quite amazing, providing many interesting questions or ideas with which to head out. I chose people I think are remarkable who I think deserve to be considered in those galleries and with their histories.
Artsy: Can you offer a Tweetable line about your floor that you would want someone like the New York Times’ Roberta Smith (or another notable art critic) to release to the (virtual) world?
AE: I never read Tweets, except @KanyeWest and @KimKierkegaardashian.
Artsy: What is your most important “tool” as a curator and why?
AE: Well, my glasses, naturally, and good support teams. It takes a lot of dedicated people to make an exhibition.
Artsy: What’s next for you?
AE: I am overseeing the exhibition Ruffneck Constructivists that Kara Walker curated for the Institute of Contemporary Art. Concurrently I am readying and keeping eyes on running the five programs I’ve selected for our marathon ICA@50. And of course the many performances I scheduled for the Whitney.
Learn more about the Whitney Biennial 2014 on Artsy. Information on visiting the Whitney Biennial here.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory