Whitney Biennial

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Whitney Biennial
Frequency biennial, every two years.
Organised by Whitney Museum of American Art
The banner of the 2006 Whitney Biennial: Day For Night in front of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The Whitney Biennial is a biennale exhibition of contemporary American[1] art, typically by young and lesser known artists, on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, USA. The event began as an annual exhibition in 1932, the first biennial was in 1973. The Whitney show is generally regarded as one of the leading shows in the art world, often setting or leading trends in contemporary art. It helped bring artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock and Jeff Koons to prominence.[2]


In 2010, for the first time a majority of the 55 artists included in that survey of contemporary American art were women.[3] The 2012 exhibition featured 51 artists, the smallest number in the event's history.[4]

The fifty-one artists for 2012 were selected by curator Elisabeth Sussman and freelance curator Jay Sanders.[5] It was open for three months up to 27 May 2012 and presented for the first time "heavy weight" on dance, music and theatre. Those performance art variations were open to spectators all day long in a separate floor.[6]


The Whitney Museum had a long history beginning in 1932 of having a large group exhibition of invited American artists every year called the 'Whitney Annual'. In the late sixties, it was decided to alternate between painting and sculpture, although by the 1970s the decision was to combine both together in a biennial. The first Biennial occurred in 1973. Since then, the biennials have pursued a different curatorial approach to include all media.

In the past the Whitney Museum has tried different ways to organize its biennial. It has used its own staff members and invited outside curators, including Europeans, to present the show. In 2010 it even asked a former art dealer, Jay Sanders, who would later become a Whitney curator, to help organize one.[7]

The Whitney Biennial often extends to sculpture exhibitions in Central Park.[8] The 2008 edition took over the Park Avenue Armory as a space for performance and installation art. The 2014 Whitney Biennial is the last one in the museum’s Marcel Breuer building. The museum is leaving the Upper East Side for the meatpacking district, where it is scheduled to open its new building, designed by Renzo Piano, in 2015.[7]

In 1987, the show was protested by the Guerrilla Girls for its alleged sexism and racism. Still referred to as the “political” biennial, the 1993 edition included works like Pepòn Osorio’s installation Scene of the Crime (Whose Crime?) of a Hispanic family's living room and Daniel Joseph Martinez’s metal buttons bearing the message “I can’t imagine ever wanting to be white.”[9]

Since 2000, the Bucksbaum Award has been awarded to an artist exhibiting at the Biennial.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The determination of what constitutes "American art" (and whether non-citizens of the United States who work or show in America may be included in the biennial) has been subject to different interpretations by various biennial curators. In 2006, European-born curators Chrissie Iles of the Whitney (English) and Philippe Vergne (French) of Minneapolis's Walker Art Center included a number of non-citizens in their biennial.
  2. ^ Randy Kennedy (February 8, 2014), Seeking U.S. Art All Over Map. Just Check GPS. New York Times.
  3. ^ Leslie Camhi (February 24, 2010), Art: Women at the 2010 Whitney Biennial Vogue.
  4. ^ Ellen Gamerman (March 1, 2012), At the Whitney, the Art Is Moving Wall Street Journal.
  5. ^ Roberta Smith (March 1, 2012). "A Survey of a Different Color 2012 Whitney Biennial". New York Times (Art Review). Retrieved March 5, 2012. 
  6. ^ Sascha Verna (March 4, 2012). "Die New Yorker "Whitney Biennial" untersucht die amerikanische Gegenwartskunst". Deutschlandradio Kultur. Retrieved March 5, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Carol Vogel (November 29, 2012), Whitney Museum Announces Biennial Plans New York Times.
  8. ^ Michael Kimmelman (March 12, 2004), Touching All Bases At the Biennial New York Times.
  9. ^ Roberta Smith (March 5, 1993), At the Whitney, A Biennial With A Social Conscience New York Times.

External links[edit]