The Whitney Museum in New York has revealed the list for this year’s Whitney Biennial, which aims to offer a wide-ranging view of American art today. Curated by Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta, the show runs from May 17 to September 22.
In a statement, Hockley said this year’s show—the Biennial’s 79th edition—will focus on “the mining of history in order to reimagine the present or future, a profound and sustained consideration of questions of equity along financial, racial, and sexual lines, a concern with climate change, and explorations of the vulnerability of the body.”
As with the 2017 edition, this year’s Whitney Biennial skews young. The 2019 Biennial includes some of today’s most closely watched emerging artists, among them Korakrit Arunanondchai, Elle Pérez, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Martine Syms. Hockley and Panetta have placed them alongside art-world veterans, like the experimental-filmmaking pioneer Barbara Hammer and the late artist James Luna. Also included is Simone Leigh, who won the Guggenheim Museum’s 2018 Hugo Boss Prize.
In typical form for the biennial, the show will include performance and film programming. The performance events will be overseen by Greta Hartenstein, an independent curator, and the film screenings are being organized by Maori Karmael Holmes, Sky Hopinka (who was in the 2017 Whitney Biennial), and Matt Wolf.
Panetta said in a statement that, of the 75 artists and collectives lined up to participate, some 75 percent of them are under 40. “In part,” she said, “this emphasis resulted from what we saw during our research across the U.S., as we were struck by the profound difficulties of our current moment and the ways in which so many artists we encountered are struggling and facing fewer opportunities to present their work publicly.”
Though the 2019 Whitney Biennial is still a little under three months away, it has already generated some controversy. The New York Times reported that in December artist Michael Rakowitz told the curators that he was pulling out of the biennial. His decision not to show at the museum was meant as a protest against Warren B. Kanders, the Whitney’s vice chairman, who owns Safariland, a company that produces tear gas and other products used against asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Last year, nearly 100 Whitney staff members—among them Hockley—signed an open letter asking the Whitney to consider having Kanders resign. A protest led by the group Decolonize This Place followed.)
In January, the activist group W.A.G.E. issued a missive to the Biennial’s participants, calling on them to “demand to be paid for the content they provide and withhold that content until the demands of Whitney staff are met.” W.A.G.E. then issued another open letter last week that said its prior statements also applied to future Whitney Biennials as well.
The artist list is as follows.
Colectivo Los Ingrávidos
FIERCE and Paper Tiger Television
Sofía Gallisá Muriente
Matthew Angelo Harrison
Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil, and Jackson Polys
Christine Sun Kim
Maia Ruth Lee
Eric N. Mack
Tiona Nekkia McClodden
Darius Clark Monroe
Las Nietas de Nonó (Lydela Nonó and Michel Nonó)
nibia pastrana santiago
Paul Mpagi Sepuya