Did you miss the 2017 Whitney Biennial? Here is a great reason to spend 8 mins in a tour de force through the exhibition.
The 2017 Whitney Biennial, the seventy-eighth installment of the longest-running survey of American art, arrives at a time rife with racial tensions, economic inequities, and polarizing politics. Throughout the exhibition, artists challenge us to consider how these realities affect our senses of self and community. The Biennial features sixty-three individuals and collectives whose work takes a wide variety of forms, from painting and installation to activism and video-game design.
IN THE PRESS
The 2017 Whitney Biennial is a Moving, Forward-Looking Tour de Force—a Triumph
After a three-year hiatus intended to allow Whitney Museum curators to break in their palatial new home in the Meatpacking District, the Whitney Biennial has returned in very fine form, with an intensely satisfying display of 63 artists and collectives across two full floors and a few other spaces. The mood is, by turns, anxious and dark, even sinister, but also, at times, expectant, guardedly hopeful. Everyone is on edge. The show presents a nation, and the sensibilities of its artists, in a period of transition, with violence cresting, identities in flux, and some brave souls hatching plans. A sea change is coming, though it is unclear if its effect will be disastrous, momentous, or something more complicated. Call it the biennial on the brink.
Thrillingly, this is a forward-looking affair—and a selective one. There is very little abstract painting, few truly huge names, and not one deceased artist, whose presence has been fashionable for these shows of late. There are some minor weak points, but the show’s curators, Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, have done an admirable job of making tough, discerning choices and letting artists swing for the fences. Their gambles have mostly paid off. Their show is a major improvement over the scattershot 2014 edition, in which three curators each took a floor of the Whitney’s old Breuer Building, and, in some cases, it radiates new energies both potent and strange.
Featuring the work of 63 artists and groups (including a film programme co-curated by Aily Nash), and the first to be held in the museum’s now two-year-old Renzo Piano-designed premises in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, this edition of the Biennial does not arrive under a title nor does it trumpet an overarching theme. Yet it’s impossible not to read it as a state-of-the-nation exegesis. Lew and Locks’s participant list was made public just days after Trump won the US presidential election, and opened less than two months after he was inaugurated, making 2017 the best of times and the worst of times to open a Whitney Biennial. It would have been a political show whether the curators wanted it to be or not. Inequality, class, race, politics, identity: it’s all there to be teased out if you want, but Lew and Locks have built an exhibition that is multivalent, personal, almost conversational. They have been mindful of representation (the show features a significant proportion of artists of colour, yet it is notable that this is still a fact we have to note) but open to what artists have been telling them rather than what they wanted to hear.
- W mag
But with over 200 such biennials in the world today, even the word is starting to feel jet-lagged. "Biennial" has become a colloquialism for any survey (whether it's held every two years or every five) that aims to take the temperature of a specific slice of the art world.
Still, the Whitney Biennial, along with the Venice Biennale and Documenta, are the headliners, the tentpoles that set the pace for the rest of the field. In the idiom of fashion weeks, another cultural branding exercise doing big business everywhere these days, they are the New York, Paris, and Milan of the art world.
— The New York Times
“This exhibition makes an exciting, powerful case for art.”
— Apollo Magazine
“Presenting a mélange of American perspectives, the biennial succeeds in keeping a finger on the pulse of a divisive and diverse cultural landscape.”
— New York Magazine
“The 2017 Whitney Biennial is the best of its kind in some time.”
“A must-see exhibition for anyone interested in contemporary art, a snapshot of American creativity and sometimes American culture.”
Whitney Biennial | filmed by Out of Sync | NYC June 2017
On view | March 17–June 11, 2017
Camera and edit | Per Henriksen
Producer | Out of Sync
© Out of Sync 2017