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A rendering of the “Whitney Perpetual” galleries (image by Renzo Piano Building Workshop)

On Wednesday the Whitney Museum of American Art announced that it will discontinue its seminal biennial exhibition, a fixture of the US art scene since 1932, and replace it with a continuous gallery-in-residence program dubbed “The Whitney Perpetual.” The new initiative will see a rotating cast of contemporary art galleries activating the museum’s fifth-floor galleries with carefully curated selections of works by their artists installed in temporary, modular alcoves.

“There’s this perception that nonprofit museums and commercial galleries operate in separate spheres, when in fact they are intimately connected in more ways than most people realize,” Whitney Museum Director Adam D. Weinberg said at a press luncheon on Wednesday announcing the new program. “With the Whitney Perpetual initiative, we want to tap into the exciting things happening at galleries across the country so that we can acquaint our audiences with the beating pulse of contemporary art production.”

View of the new Whitney Museum from Gansevoort Street (photo by Karin Jobst, 2014; courtesy the Whitney Museum)

The program will launch when the museum opens in its new Meatpacking District home on May 1 with an initial lineup that will include some of the country’s biggest galleries, among them Mary Boone, Regen Projects, Gagosian, and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise.

“We thought about sitting out this edition of the Whitney Perpetual since it opens right before Frieze New York,” Gavin Brown told Hyperallergic after the luncheon. “But we decided that it was worth doing because it will expose us to a different set of collectors who might not make the trek to Randall’s Island.” Brown will devote his alcove to new paintings by Laura Owens, who was one of the stars of the final Whitney Biennial in 2014.

Galleries participating in the Whitney Perpetual program will rotate monthly. They will be handpicked by members of the museum’s board of trustees based on their business relationships with dealers. Each new iteration of the program will be launched with a black-tie gala, for which the Whitney has secured high-caliber sponsorship deals with HSBC and LVMH. Clients of HSBC’s Private Bank branch will be granted early admission to each new configuration of the Whitney Perpetual and access to the exclusive LVMH Lounge, where Moët champagne will be available on tap.

“We want to be the institution that tells the contemporary history of American art as it’s happening,” Weinberg added. “After a long period of self-examination we realized that the best way to do that is to go beyond just showing American artists and highlight the work of American art dealers, who are the true artists.”

The inaugural Whitney Perpetual opens May 1 at the new Whitney Museum (Washington Street and Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, Manhattan) and continues through May 31.

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14 replies on “Whitney Museum Replacing Biennial with Program Devoted to Art Galleries”

  1. “and highlight the work of American art dealers, who are the true artists.” What a load of bollocks

  2. Well, there you have it. It’s all about the Benjamins, front and center. Gotta give them credit for being so open about it instead of the veneer of independence from Biennials of past.

  3. The power of the galleries to control who will show in these spaces is a outragious! No longer will art be shown for the merit of its art, it will be shown solely on the ability to generate money or status for the gallery or artist. Art is to be traded much like that of a Commodity. Its a sad day!

  4. Same old nonsense! Galleries buying the privilege of showing their artists. Have to keep those doors open. Sell out, sell out.

  5. So sad, the new Whitney museum, with its hot new High Line location selling out to gallery money pressure. And how can champagne be “on tap?”

  6. How disappointing. Disappointing that the readership doesn’t actually read the text before feeling compelled to comment, or if they did finish it, they were unable to catch the humor. What does that say about an audience’s ability to grasp nuance, subtext, parallell ideas, etc.? No wonder Jeff Koons balloons and Damien HIrsts dots are a hit, and that art fairs are now art carnivals…

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