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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.”
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.”