2014 Whitney Biennial to Feature 3 Curators on 3 Floors

Whitney Museum (Image via

In the New York Times, Carol Vogel reports on the future of the Whitney Biennial, that ever-controversial summary of American art. For the 2014 edition of the show, there are a few new surprises — mainly, that the old, monolithic model of curating has been totally dismantled.

The 2014 Whitney Biennial will be composed of three different showcases on three floors, with each managed by a curator who is — gasp — not based in New York City. The curators are Stuart Comer, the film curator at Tate Modern, Philadelphia ICA associate curator Anthony Elms, and School of the Art Institute of Chicago professor Michelle Grabner. Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders, the curators of the scattershot 2012 biennial, will oversee the new 2014 trio, ensuring that they don’t pick the same artists.

Given the difficulty of pinning down any sort of national American artistic zeitgeist in a single exhibition, the multi-pronged strategy might be just the thing to lend a sense of diversity to the biennial. By allowing the curators “to express their own points of view,” as Whitney chief curator Donna De Salvo describes, the exhibition could manage to more accurately depict the various currents of contemporary art in this country.

Joanna Mallinowksa, “From the Canyons to the Stars” (2012) on the second floor of the 2012 Whitney Biennial. (Photo by Hrag Vartanian)

Last year’s biennial hinted at the possibility of multiple strategies combined in a single exhibition. While the installation of works itself left something to be desired, the show’s program of films and performances felt fresh and vibrant.

The 2014 outing will be the last biennial located in the Whitney’s Breuer building; in 2016, the curator(s) will encounter the fresh space of the museum’s new Meatpacking incarnation. I, for one, will be very grateful to see it in a new context.

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